Looking Ahead - A Brief MOC Preview

While the NJSIAA and Assemblyman John Burzichelli  conduct  the mother of all contests to see who can Pee the farthest,  we, as Track & Field nuts, turn our attention to Thursday and the final meet of the Championship season here in NJ, the Meet of Champions. Action will get underway at Frank Jost Field at 3:30pm. (both on the track and at the field venues).

For the last few years the experts have forecast that each successive MOC will have races or field events that will be “for the ages”. This year is no different as the Garden State continues to produce not only phenomenal marks, but gets deeper and deeper in terms of top to bottom talent. In the next few paragraphs I will attempt to give you some sense of what we may see at So. Plainfield on June 4. By the way, get there early. It is going to be a zoo and parking is tough to come by once the limited onsite parking fills up.     

The big buzz this year and most likely for next year also will be centered on the distance events.  As long as the Rosa twins are on the track, we will be talking about the potential for prodigious times in whichever event (1600m / 3200m) they are entered in. Only juniors, Joe and his brother Jim have rocked New Jersey running since their frosh debuts. This year there is a deep, talented cast in both distance runs and wins/records are by no means guaranteed for the red heads from WW-P North.

Another junior who has throwing bombs with remarkable consistency is Morristown’s Nick Vena who owns an unheard of 22 tosses of 70 feet or more. He is the US #1 in the event this year.

The following is a quick look at interesting matchups, questions with answers yet to be revealed and other ramblings on the Boys side of the 2010 NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Obviously all this preview stuff is dependent on who commits to what for Thursday.



100m - Although not a powerhouse event in NJ this year, this race will still be interesting to watch as Timber Creek junior Damiere Byrd posted the top seed time of 10.68 while capturing the G3 title in So. Plfld. Byrd is also NJ’s #1 in the event with the 10.57 that he posted at the SJ Open. The next 4 sprinters are very closely bunched and if things break right either Miles Shuler-Foster (Long Branch / ’11),  Fabian Santiago (Oakcrest / ’12) or Zamir Thomas (Synder / ’11) could upset. Last year’s champ, Tejay Johnson (Oakcrest / ’10) holds down the #6 seed.


200m - This could be a barn burner as all of the top seeds have the potential to take this one. At 21.49 for the top seed,  Zamir Thomas is only slightly off of his seasonal best of 21.43. Shuler-Foster is seeded at #2 (21.61) and Hackensack senior Conroy Walker’s time of 21.79 puts him just ahead of Byrd for the #4 seed. NJ #1 ( 21.34h) Najee Glass (St. Peter’s Prep / ’12), who has been ripping it up at 400m, holds the #5 seed and will also be in the 1st heat. Watch out for him if he decides to double. The other intriguing runner if he goes for 2 is Florence senior Keith Griffith . Despite being the top returner at 800m for this meet, Keith opted out of the longer distance for the Championships and instead has concentrated on the long sprints. He won both theG1 200 and 400 titles this past weekend.


400m- This will be one of the “showdown races of the evening as Clayton Gravesande (Franklin Twp / ’10), Byrd, if he chooses to run this, Glass and Griffith will go head to head for the title. Aside from being the top 4 seeds from their Groups performances, they are this season’s top NJ quarter-milers. The quartet, along with Hasbrouck Hts. junior,  Kevin Condal (#8 seed) are the only Jersers under 48.0 this season .


800m - With the defection of Keith Griffith to the long sprints, the mantle of “Top Returner” rests on the shoulders of Kevin Byrne (Red Bank Cath. / ’11). Byrne, who ran 1:53.51 to place 6thlast year, comes into the MOC as the 2nd seed after winning the Ecumenical “A” championship in 1:52.81. The top seed is  Bradley Paternostro (Ramapo ’11) another junior who has burst onto the scene this year with a string of outstanding performances.  He has dropped 5 seconds + off of his 800 time and a whopping 12 + secs. Of his 1600m PR. This race will be fast up front with a bunch of 1:53.xx types looking to give Paternostro and Byrne all they can handle.


1600m – For a while between Saturday and this morning, it looked like this year’s Millrose Games and Penn Relays mile champ might have to go for gold from the 2nd heat on Thurs. Pat Schellberg (Delbarton / ’10) had a tough go on Friday night in the Ecumenical “A” 1600m and got into the MOC with a 4:14.28, which is on paper, the #14 seed. Decisions by some of the top guys (i.e. Mazzacccaro, Joe Rosa) to only go in the 3200m has most likely moved Pat up to the faster heat on Thurs. Don’t award Schellberg the gold just yet though. Indoor MOC champ, Union Catholic senior DJ Thornton ran 4:09.63, just .10 secs off of the winning time of 4:09.53 by Mike Mazzaccaro (CBA / ’11). More on him later. Do not over look Tim Ball (Bishop Ahr / ’12) who has had significant time drops over the last few weeks and seems to be arriving on time. This could be the fastest, deepest 1600m final in the history of the MOC. Last year 15 guys went under 4:20. This year 4:19.97 gets you the #30 seed. Insane stuff. The only thing that could slow this race down on Thurs is the higher heat and humidity being forecast.  


3200m - In the last 5 years, there have been 3 sub 9:00 3200m races at MOC. 2 of them by all timer Craig Forys  and the other by Bobby Papazian. This year could be the 4th in 6 years as a number of NJ’s top distance guys are poised to make that leap. This will be another very deep, tough to handicap championship.  While Joe Rosa and  Tyler Udland (who has a sub 9 this season) duked it out in the G3 race on Saturday, Jeremy Elkaim (Livingston / ’11) was burning up the new track at Egg Harbor with a 9:00.41. Shortly after the Rosa/Udland duel finished, Mike Mazzaccaro took the Ecumenical “A” race in 9:05.78. Add Morgan Pearson (Delbarton / ’11), who was only 1.1 seconds behind Mazz and you’ve got the makings of a very fast race up front. Look for sub 9:00 on this one.And don't be surprised if the winner comes from a Monmouth County parochial school.


110HH - I will be the first to admit that I do not follow the hurdle events as closely as I should. So, I apologize if this is brief and perhaps not as accurate as I would like.

There are 3 guys in NJ who are under 14.00 this year and the marks were all run at the various Group meets Devon Carter (Washington Twp. / ’10) and Bennett Jackson (Raritan / ’10) both ran 13.96 on Saturday and share the top seed. Jackson is the top returner, having finished 6th in 14.40 last year. The third is Syteek Farrington (Camden / ’10) with a seed time of 13.97.


400m IH - Mostly what I know about this event is that it is tough as hell. And I have a ton of respect for the athletes who run it well.

With a top seed time of 53.65 from the G1 race, John Porteous (Wood-Ridge / ’11) garners the top seed for Thursday. Stephon Bell (Penns Grove / ’10) and Washington Twp’s Carter are the 2-3 seeds respectively and were the only other sub 54 guys at Groups.  


Damiere Byrd photo courtesy of MaroonNews