In Attempt At History, Rhea Wins 400, DNF in 110H at MOCs

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While Sincere Rhea came up short in his attempt at making history at Saturday's NJSIAA Meet of Champions on Saturday, he has no regrets.

The senior at St. Augustine, who won the 60-meter hurdles at the New Balance Indoor Nationals this past March and has been the top high hurdler in the state all season, headed into the M of C at Northern Burlington High School ranked No. 3 in the nation in the 110m hurdles with a 13.52, tied for No. 3 in state history.

So Rhea could have easily just focused on trying to win his first outdoor M of C title in the high hurdles, but he decided to take a chance and run the flat 400m race also.

"I figured why not give a shot,'' said the Penn State-bound Rhea. "It was my last Meet of Champions and no one had ever won both before. I wanted to see if I could make history.'''

Things got off to a great start for Rhea. 

After running 13.78 in the trials of the 110m hurdles, the top qualifying time for the final, Rhea won the 400 in a huge personal best and NJ#2 47.89.

Rhea was halfway to history, but then the schedule and fatigue became an issue.

Just 22 minutes and 54 seconds after he won the 400, Rhea lined up to run the 110m hurdle final.

Rhea, with his legs no where close to recovered from the 400, wasn't able to finish the hurdle race. He  stopping after one hurdle when his steps were off and he led with his opposite leg over the first hurdle. 

Roselle senior Jaheem Hayles went on to win the 110m hurdle title in 13.55, the second fastest time in meet history,  No. 5 in state history, and No. 4 in the nation this season.  

"My legs were still really tired from the 400 when I was warming up for the hurdle final,'' said Rhea. "I simulated this exact scenario in practice, but my legs were much more tired than I expected.''

But Rhea kept an upbeat and positive attitude about everything.

"You just can't predict how things are going to go in track and field,'' said Rhea. "You just go out there and do your best and see what happens. This is my first year running the 400, so who would have thought I'd win my first and only outdoor Meet of Champions title in the 400? You just never know how things are going to go unless you try.''

Rhea's chances of winning the 400 went way up when he saw defending 400 champion and state leader Mario Heslop (NJ#1 47.12) had chosen to run the 100, 200 and 4x400, and was skipping the 400.

"When I saw Mario wasn't running the 400, I knew I had a better chance at winning,'' said Rhea. "I really felt like I had a good chance to win both, but it just wasn't meant to be,''     

Rhea's season isn't over yet, He will run the 110m hurdles at the New Balance Nationals next weekend at the University of North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C.     

"It's time to just wipe this hurdle race out of my mind and focus on practicing hard this week and trying to win a national title next week,'' said Rhea. "I'll be ready to go.''