Dakota Gerges Runs NJ#1 as the Merli Invite Produces Top State Performances

Dakota Gerges leading the 400 meter on Saturday. / Photo by Mae Kellert for MileSplit

10 National Elite performances were put forth at the Merli Invitational on Saturday.

Full Results | Photos | Interviews | National Elites (10) | All-Time Meet Lists

 Among those performances was a new state leading time in the girls 400 meter dash. Dakota Gerges of Sayreville HS won the Large School 400 meter event running an indoor PR of 59.22, that is NJ#1 US#19 and 4th all-time for the meet which started in 2007. 

Gerges also placed third in the 55 meter dash running 7.68, an event she normally doesn't compete in. That race was won by Breasia Sollomon of Trenton Central who ran 7.48 and now rankings NJ#6 in the event. 

An interview with Dakota Gerges commenting on her great start to the season. 

In the 1600 meter run Niamh Hayes of Howell won with a NJ#2 time of 5:08.86, this is also second all-time for the meet only behind Southern Regional's Jillian Smith who ran 5:05.23 in 2007. 

In the high jump Emily Clayton of Brick Memorial cleared 5-01 in a jump off to move up to NJ#10 this season. She then doubled back in the 55 meter hurdles to win with a time of 8.95. A strong start for her coming back from a knee injury last spring. 

We had plenty of boys performances crack top ten in the state as well. In the 400 meter dash junior Semaj Willis of Trenton Central ran 51.90 to win and tie NJ#5 this season. His teammate Mulual Mu ran NJ#5 in the 1600 meter run as well with a gold medal time of 4:28.61. It is the fastest 1600 meter time in the state this season when excluding converted mile times. 

Trenton Central was all over the meet's leading times, adding a win in the 4x400 meter relay with a time of 3:32.14 NJ#5.  

In the high jump the meet gathered around a battle between Rashaun Powell-Jenkins of Neptune and Robert Hill of Brick Memorial. The two settled at 6-04 with Powell-Jenkins winning on jumps. They both now sit tied for NJ#2 second all-time at the meet. The meet record is set at 6-6 by Ian Kirk of Howell in 2013. 

Some of the top performances came from athletes who already outdid themselves earlier this season. Luke Grodeska of St. Rose won the shot put with a mark of 57-07.50, he already owns the NJ#2 spot at 58-4.  

In the 55 meter dash Marvin Morgan of Neptune sprinted to gold with 6.58 in the finals. That is fast by itself but he already ran 6.57 the week previous, currently NJ#2. A great start to the season for the top returning junior sprinter. 

In the team race Rahway swept the small school team titles with 102 points for the girls and 75 points for the boys. Howell girls took the large school title at 67 points. Elizabeth won the boys large school with 59 points. 

Team Winners

Girls Small School - Rahway 102 points

Girls Large School - Howell 67 points

Boys Small School - Rahway 75 points

Boys Large School - Elizabeth 59 points

(If you took a picture please send it in, sorry I missed you!)