Sam Mattis and Keturah Orji, two of the greatest track and field athletes to ever compete in New Jersey, each secured spots on the U.S. World Championship team with victories on Thursday at the USATF National Championships at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa
The 23-year-old Orji, who won the 2018 Bowerman Award and now competes professionally for the Atlanta Track Club, made history by soaring 47-7 1/4 on her first attempt to become the first to ever win the women's triple jump four straight years. Orji, a graduate of Mount Olive High School and the University of Georgia, had the top three jumps of the competition.
In 2018, Orji became the first person to ever win four NCAA outdoor triple jump titles, and finished her college career with a total of eight NCAA titles indoors and outdoors combined. Orji, fourth in the TJ at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, owns the indoor American/collegiate record of 47-8.
Prior to her record breaking college career, Orji put together the greatest career by a horizontal jumper in NJ high school history at Mount Olive. She won six national titles in high school, captured the 2014 USATF Junior National title in the TJ, and she holds the state records in the triple jump indoors and outdoors.
Orji isn't done yet. She will also compete in the long jump as she attempts to become the first woman to ever win both horizontal jumps.
The 25-year-old Mattis, who set the still standing NJ high school record in the discus (218-4) during his days at East Brunswick High and captured the 2015 NCAA title in the discus for UPenn, unloaded a throw of 218-9 on his first throw. The 218-9 by Mattis, who is now competing professionally for the New York Athletic Club, stood up as the winning mark in the men's discus.
Mattis and Orji, who both went well beyond the IAAF World Championship standards, will now compete for Team USA at the IAAF World Championships, which are scheduled for Sept. 27 through Oct. 6 in Doha, Qatar.
In other NJ highlights on day one of the USATF Championships-
- Marielle Hall (Haddonfield High grad) finished fifth in the women's 10K (32:14.41) and Sarah Pagano (Immaculate Heart Academy High grad) was 6th in the 10K (32:48.58). Hall, who will also run the 5K on Sunday, will most likely make the World Team in the 10K by virtue of her win at the NACAC Championships.
- NJ's Ajee' Wilson (Neptune High), Olivia Baker (Columbia High) and current Trenton High School student Athing Mu of the Trenton Track Club all advanced to the semifinals of the women's 800.
- Wilson, a 2016 Olympian, the American record holder in the 800m and the defending champ, won her heat in 2:04.69.
- Mu, a rising high school senior who won the World U20 800 gold last week, ran 2:01.95, the second fastest time of all the heats. and not far off her PR of 2:01.38. Mu has a great shot of breaking Wilson NJ high school record of 2:00.91, which was set in 2012.
- Baker, who starred at Stanford, ran 2:02.55 in the same heat as Mu, the third fastest time of the opening round.
- English Gardner, a gold medalist in the 4x100m relay at the 2016 Olympic Games, ran 11.28 in the women's 100m dash trials to advance to the semis. Gardner graduated frm NJ's Eastern High School and the University of Oregon.