The State Championship season is finally here with the start of the Sectional Championships. So let's take a look at the state of the distance events and see who the top athletes are and who might contend with them.
Here's a breakdown of the boys and girls 800, 1,600 and 3,200
800- The two-lapper is shaping up to be possibly the best race at the Meet of Champions if all the top contenders run it. The state leader is Passaic junior Luis Peralta, the Indoor M of C winner who blasted a 1:50.62 to win the Dominican National Championship in April. Right behind Peralta are Shore Conference champion Drew Maher of Shore Regional (NJ #2 1:50.73) and Mercer County winner Sean Dolan of Hopewell Valley (NJ #3 1:51.37). And don't overlook Damien Dilcher of Brick Township, who was fifth at th M of C last spring and has run 1:53.50 this season.
There is a good chance that Maher, the Indoor M of C winner in the 1,600, and Dolan, the state's only sub 4:10 miler, will focus on the 1,600 when the M of C rolls around. Dolan was third at the M of C in the 800 last year.
1,600- As mentioned above, Drew Maher and Sean Dolan are two of the state's best in the four-lapper, and with surging Tim McInerney of Christian Brothers Academy in the mix, this race should produce plenty of fireworks if they all run it at the M of C.
Dolan, a junior, is NJ #1 and US #5 with the 4:08.86, tied for No. 12 in NJ history, that he ran last week to place second at the Boost Boston Games, and he went 4:07.57 as the anchor on Hopewell Valley's DMR team that win the Penn Relays title. The Penn State-bound Maher, second at the oudoor M of C last spring, has run 4:11.69 in the mile this season and has a 1,600 PR of 4:09.92. McInerney, a junior, ran a PR of 4:10.75 to finish a head of Maher at the Monmouth County. Right behind those guys is Damien Dilcher of Brick Township who dropped a PR of 4:11.51 at the Royal Rumble in Holmdel last week, Acasio Pinheiro of Princeton (4:13.04) and Sameer Das of West Windsor South (4:13.30)
3,200 - Devin Hart of Point Borocame into this season as the overwhelming favorite to dominate the state in this race, and nothing has changed.
After winning the 3,200 at the M of C as a sophomore last spring and the XC M of C title in cross-country and the 3,200 at the Indoor M of C this past February has continued to roll this spring. Hart is undefeated this season, highlighted by his 3K win at the Penn Relays in 8:22.24 and his NJ #1 9:09.50 to win the Ocean County title. The other sub 9:20 runners this season are Will Hare of Princeton (9:11.13), Jack Jennings of Mendham (9:16.33), Justin Kelly of Cherokee (9:16.61) and Samer Das of West Windsor South (9:18.58).
800-As expected, sophomore Victoria Vanriele of Governor Livingston is the leader of the pack in the two-lapper. The three time M of C winner in the 800 (two indoor and one outdoor) is NJ #1 with the 2:09.48 she ran to win the Union County title. Vanriele is more than two seconds faster than anyone else this season.
Caroline O'Sullivan of Old Tappan is next with a NJ #2 11.60. Then it's Leena Morant of Union Catholic (2:13.38), GMC winner Essence Baker of South Brunswick (2:15.12), and then Morris County champ Kate McAndrew of Morris Catholic (2;15.27).
1,600-There are seven sub 5:00 runner in the state this season, led by Abby Loveys of Randolph. Loveys, a junior, cranked out a NJ #1 4:52.02 to win the Morris County title. Right behind her is sophomore Nicole Vanasse of Pingry (4:53.30). Vanasse won the 3,200 at the Indoor Meet of Champions.
The other sub 5 girls are Skyland Conf. winner Chloe Gonzalez of North Hunterdon (4:55.52), Indoor M of C winner Madison Brand of Middletown South (4:58.59), Alexa Westley of Warren Hills (4:59.05), Caroline O'Sullivan of Old Tappan (4:59.27) and Kaitlyn Van Baalen of Ridge (4:59.51). Westley won the 3,200 at the M of C last June.
3,200- This race should provide plenty of fireworks at the Meet of Champions as Alexa Westley of Warren Hills returns to go for her second straight title. Westley won last year with a PR of 10:35.41, but should have plenty of fast company around her.
Senior Alyssa Aldridge of Mainland, the two-time M of C XC winner, is seeking her first M of C track title. Aldridge, one of eight runners under 11 minutes this season, is currently NJ #1 with a 10:36.12. Next is Abby Loveys of Randolph at 10:40.74. Loveys is also NJ #1 in the 1,600 (4:52.02). Westley is NJ #3 at 10:43.65. Although they've yet to break 11 this season, it is just a matter of time before the the Hebner twins, Isabel and Monica of Northern Highlands, climb up the state rankings. Monica, the XC M of C winner last fall, has a PR of 10:38.33 and Isabel has run 10:40.95.
Interesting to note here is that Nicole Vanasse of Pingry, who ran a PR of 10:34.49 to win the 3,200 at the Indoor M of C, didn't run the 3,200 at the Non-Public Sectionals. So she isn't eliigible to run this event at the Groups or Meet of Champions. Vanasse is NJ #2 in the 1,600 (4:53.30).