Will Baginski has had great success this season using the same formula in many of his races.
So the senior at Ridgewood stuck with what has worked best for him at Saturday's 51st Meet of Champions and the Bennett Center in Toms River.
His perfect strategy resulted in the biggest victory of Baginski's career when he used a wicked kick to win the 1,600 in 4:12.90, a huge PR, No. 6 in meet history, NJ#2 in the state this season, and US#18 this winter.
Baginski, who sliced nearly four seconds off his previous PR of 4:16.44 that he ran to win the state Group 4 title, waited patiently for the right time to unleash his kick. With about 350 meters to go, it was time as Baginski hit the gas and surged past Jack Stanley of Mendham and Tim McInerney of CBA to take the lead. Once he got in front, Baginski kept hammering and pulled away for the victory.
The Princeton-bound Stanley, who led at 800 (2:08.7 and 1,200 (3:12.9) finished second with a PR of 4:15.25, and Francis Martingale of Memorial W.N.Y. won an unseeded heat with a PR of 4:15.58 to finish third overall.
Baginski, who covered the final 400 in 60.1 and ran 29.7 over the last 200,
"When I run my best races, this is how I run it,'' said Baginski. "My kick has been something I've been able to rely on, so my plan was to sit and wait and kick and finish strong. Things worked out perfectly for me.'
The victory was especially satisfying for Baginski after he missed nearly the entire outdoor season last spring with a stress fracture of the sacrum.
"I felt like I was ready for a big spring before I got hurt, so I really wanted to prove myself this season, my senior year,'' said the Dartmouth-bound Baginski. "So it really means a lot to me to come in here and win this. It's something I've been working a long time for. I've always dreamed of winning a Meet of Champions title.''
Before this season, Elijah Brown wasn't really on many people's radar when it came to the 800-meter run.
Now, he's a Meet of Champions winner at that distance.
Just 10 months after the first 800 of his high school career, Brown, a junior at Union Catholic, made a huge surge just before the bell to grab the lead in the 800.
He was daring someone to catch him, and no one could as Brown hammered his way to victory in 1:53.98, a huge personal best, the second fastest time in the state this season, and a qualifying time for the New Balance Nationals in New York in two weeks.
Brown said the race went out faster than he thought, so he waited to make his move.
"Miles took it out in 54, and I wasn't expecting it to go that fast,''' said Brown. "So I just waited until like 200 to go and just went for it with all I had.' My legs were a little tight going into that last 200, so it was all heart the rest of the way. I had to open up my stride and keep my composure because I knew they were coming.''
Brown, primarily a 400 runner before this season, has come a long way since running his first high school 800 last April at the Blue Devil Classic in Westfield.
"The season I'm having in the 800 is a big shocker because it's a big transition from the 400,'' said Brown. "But I've been working really hard at the 800 and my times have kept coming down.''
Brown said he knew the door was open for him to win his first M of C title when defending champion and 2018 New Balance National Outdoor Champion Luis Peralta of Passaic decided to skip the state meets and run more open races.
"When I saw that Luis Peralta wasn't going to be running the 800 at states, I knew that was my shot at winning,'' said Brown. "It made me work even harder to win this. I came into this race with a plan and stuck to it, and it went just the way I was hoping.''