The Union Catholic boys and girls track teams have ruled the Union County Relays for the last several years so it came as no surprise to see them set up residency in the winner's circle and sweep the team titles for a second straight season on Sunday at the Jersey City Armory.
The real surprise of the meet occurred when the Elizabeth shuttle hurdles crew of Abdul Tucker, Bryan Rodrigues, Jose Rebolledo, and Mackel Pierrilus -- all seniors -- rocketed to a 31.38, the second-fastest time in the U.S. this season and No. 1 in New Jersey.
Western Branch (30.20) of Chesapeake, Va., is the only other team in the country to have run faster than Elizabeth in the shuttle hurdles this season. Elizabeth overtook Winslow (31.47) for the state's top effort.
The Union Catholic boys may have won five of eight events, but they needed every single point from those gold medals to hold off Elizabeth for their second straight team title and their eighth in the last 10 years.
UC led Elizabeth by two points in the team standings going into the meet-concluding 4x400-meter relay. UC's Connor Cooper (54.4), Myles Plummer (52.9), Tyhir James (51.4) and Elijah Brown (50.8) slammed the door on any drama, winning the mile relay by four seconds in 3:29.76.
Union Catholic finished with 64 points. Elizabeth -- aiming for its second title in three years -- had 58 and Summit and Union tied for third with 26.
Another solid performance for the UC boys was the distance medley relay, when Matt Granizo (3:23 1,200), Jonathan Carrion (56.5 400), Elijah Brown (1:59.7 800) and Myles Plummer (4:32.7 1,600) won the boys in NJ#3 10:51.96.
The Union Catholic girls were the polar opposite of the UC boys, breaking two meet records, winning seven of eight events and steamrolling the field en route to their seventh straight county relays title.
UC, a 76-32 winner over runner-up Scotch Plains-Fanwood, enjoyed an amazing meet, smashing two records and nearly breaking two more.
UC senior Alexandra Kwasnik and Johnson's Carly Tarentino led the high jump field with a 5-6, matching the best in the state this season, and Kwasnik teamed with A'Liyah Thomas (5-2) to combined for a meet record 10-8. Kwasnik's overall PR is the 5-7 she jumped to place fourth at nationals last spring.
Union Catholic missed the meet record by .06 seconds in the 4x400 when Aniyah Charles (1:01.2), Pray-Brown (1:02.8), Nyinah (1:00.5) and Zamira Ysaac (1:00.6) won in NJ#2 4:05.73. And the shuttle hurdles team of Ajanae Thompson (7.8), Felicia Quainoo (7.6), Alexandra Bonn (8.0) and Avery Jordan (7.8) won in 31.50, just .22 seconds from the record.
Victoria Vanriele, the Gov. Livingston senior who has made her mark in the state history books in the 800 meters, opened the Relays with a sizzling split. Vanriele, a Penn State commit, bolted at the opening gun of the distance medley, and running solo, she clocked 3:39.2 for 1,200 meters. The last time we saw the GL senior on a NJ track she won her third straight outdoor M of C 800 meter title last spring.
Other individual highlights included Elizabeth's Pierrilus (the anchor man on the red-hot shuttle hurdles team), Oluwafemi Asenuga of UC and Kizmar Dukes of Hillside leading the boys field in the high jump with leaps of 6-0.