Is there a state in the country that has produced two bigger current female college stars than New Jersey?
I don't think so!
After what Sydney McLaughlin and Keturah Orji did at the SEC Championships this past weekend, there is a chance that the dynamic duo from the Garden State could finish 1-2 in the final Bowerman Award voting. For those that don't know, the Bowerman Award is track and field's equivalent to football's Heisman Trophy.
Kentucky freshman McLaughlin, who graduated from Union Catholic High last spring, continued to turn the track & field world upside with a mind-blowing 52.75 to smash the NCAA record and her own World Junior record in the 400 hurdles at the SEC meet in Knoxville, Tenn. The former NCAA record of 53.21 was set by Kori Carter of Stanford when she won the NCAA title in 2013. Carter won the 400 hurdles at the World Championships last summer.
The 52.75 places McLaughlin tied for No. 5 on the all-time U.S. list, is tied for No. 9 on the all-time World list, and would have placed sixth in the SEC open 400 final.
The 18-year-old McLaughlin, a 2016 Olympian, is now just .41 off the World record of 52.34 set by set by Russia's Yuliya Pechonkina in 2003.
McLaughlin also ran a 50.08 third leg that helped the Wildcats win the 4x400 in a meet record and NCAA season-leading 3:25.99, No. 11 in NCAA history.
For her remarkable performances, McLaughlin was named the National Athlete of the Week by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association
Meanwhile, Georgia's Orji, a senior from Mount Olive, had the greatest horizontal jumping double in meet history. On Saturday, Orji won her first SEC long jump title with a Georgia record 22-4 ¼, No. 1 in the NCAA rankings this season.
The next day, Orji bounded out to a NCAA record 47-11 ¾ in the triple jump to become the first athlete to ever win the same event 8 times (four indoors/four outdoors) at the SEC Championships. Orji now has a Georgia record nine SEC titles in her storied career, and will be going for her seventh NCAA TJ title next month.
While McLaughlin and Orji were N.J.'s biggest winners at the conference meets across the country this past weekend, there were several other Garden State stars that shined.
Let's take a look around the country at some of the top college performances by NJ high schools graduates.
Cory Poole (East Orange) was fourth in the 110 hurdles with a PR of 13.68, No. 14 in the NCAA rankings, and he placed third in the 400 hurdles in 50.09, No. 11 in the NCAA, to help lead Florida to the SEC team title.
Vanderbilt's Jennifer Edobi (Union) placed eighth in the women's 400 at the SEC meet in 53.43.
Bazile, a senior, won the long jump with a 26-4 ¼, the No. 7 in the NCAA, placed sixth in the 100 in 10.43 (PR of 10.23 in the trials-tied for No. 28 in the NCAA rankings) and he ran on the winning 4x100 that blasted a meet record 38.93, No. 6 on the NCAA list and just off the Ohio State record of 38.92 set last June.
Also at the Big Ten meet at the University of Indiana, Michigan junior Taylor McLaughlin (Union Catholic) won the same event as his sister Sydney by running a personal best 49.62, No. 8 in the NCAA rankings, to capture the 400 hurdles. McLaughlin also won the 400 IH at the conference meet as a freshman two years ago.
Lots of Jersey stars shined for Rutgers at the Big Ten Championships.
Taj Burgess (Carteret) placed second in the 400 at the Big 10 Championships in 45.60, No. 21 the NCAA rankings and just off the Rutgers school record of 45.27 that was set in 2016 when current junior Izaiah Brown won the Big Ten title.
Madeus, a freshman, also placed fourth in the 400 hurdles in 51.18. He ran a PR of 50.83, No. 30 on the NCAA season list, in the trials.
Bryanna Grant of Rutgers, a fifth-year senior out of Cranford High, took down the Rutgers triple jump record in dramatic fashion when she leaped 42-0 on her final attempt to place fifth. Grant's 42-0 smashed the previous Rutgers record of 41-3 set by Kahimah Liverman at the 2007 Metropolitan Championships at Rutgers.
Villanova junior Sterling Pierce (Rancocas Valley) won the 100 with a PR of 10.60 and was second in the 200 in a PR of 21.18 at the Big East Championships at SPIRE in Geneva, Ohio . His previous best times were 10.64 and 21.34, both in 2016. Pierce won the 100 and 200 at the Big East meet as a freshman two years ago.
Woodard's PR in the discus is 190-9, No. 9 among NCAA throwers this season. Woodard is one of just two NCAA throwers ranked in the top 10 in both the shot and discus. The other is Maggie Ewen of Arizona State, who is No. 1 in the NCAA in the shot (63-10 ¼), discus (201-0), and hammer (244-6),
Baylor's Megan SaxvanderWeyden (Pennsville) a school record bomb of 166-4 ¼ to finish third at the Big 12 Championships. The 166-4 1/4 is No. 30 on the NCAA rankings this season and crushes her previous Baylor record of 158-7.
Former West Orange standout Barden James of Kansas crushed his LJ PR by nearly nine inches when he soared 25-11 to take third at the Big 12 Championships. That places James No. 17 on the NCAA list for this season.
UCLA's Alyssa Wilson (Donovan Catholic) unloaded a personal best of 218-3, No. 9 in the NCAA, to place second in the hammer throw at the PAC 12 meet at Stanford. Wilson was also fifth in both the shot put (53-0 ¾) and discus (170-4).
Former Westwood High star Jess Molina, who began her career at Wake Forest, is now at Oregon State. Molina, who set the Oregon State school record in the hammer throw this season with a throw of 183-11, was 12th in the shot put and 14th in the hammer at the PAC 12 Championships.
American Athletic Conference Championships
UConn also received a fourth place finish in the javelin from senior Seth Zuidema (Midland Park), and a fifth from junior Kyle Brackman (Gov. Livingston) in the 5,000. Zuidema threw 226-4, just off his season best of 226-10, No. 31 in the NCAA, and Brackman ran 14:58.68.
William & Mary's Derek Trott (Christian Brothers) unloaded a PR of 219-10 to win the IC4A javelin. Trott is just the second winner of the javelin at the IC4A meet in William & Mary history. The other champion is former Westfield star Brandon Heroux in 2011.
Princeton junior Charlie Volker (Rumson) ran on Princeton's winning 4x100 that ran a sub-40 second time for the first time in Princeton history with a 39.90, the fourth fastest time in Ivy League history.
For the Monmouth men, Chris Marco (Toms River South) finished fourth in the IC4A 1500 in 3:46.51, and Dylan Capwell (Hopatcong) ran 1:50.68 to place fourth in the 800. Marco also combined with Nick McFarland (Hillsborough), Ryan Rafferty (Jackson) and Sean Quinn to place fifth in the 4x800.
Rider's Michael Horn (St. Joseph of Met.) bounded out to an new PR of 48-9 ½ to take fourth in the triple jump.
Jack Shea (Cherokee) finished third in the 10K in 30:53.54 at the Big Sky Championships to help the Northern Arizona University men win the team title at the University of Idaho's Dan O'Brien Complex.
Delsea High grad Elisia Lancaster of Rowan at Gloucester County Colllege (RGCC) captured titles in the hammer throw (154-0), shot put (41-3 ¼) and discus at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Utica, N.Y.