Boys NJSIAA Meet of Champions Preview

There are some big time battles brewing for this weekend. 

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The NJSIAA Meet of Champions has a new address outside New Jersey borders as the 52nd annual meet will be take place on Sunday at the Ocean Breeze Facility on Staten Island.   

The Meet of Champions had been held at the Bennett Center in Toms River since 2007, and prior to that was contested at Jadwin Gym at Princeton University from 1969 through 2006. 

This is the first time ever that a NJ state championship meet will be held outside of the Garden State and Ocean Breeze is a huge upgrade. The state of the art banked track and field facility opened in 2015, and is one of the top indoor track and field venues in the country. There are two caged throwing areas, plenty of space on a quality surface for the jumps and vaults and dedicated sand pits that have allowed for the addition of the triple jump for the first time ever as a showcase event.

The much more spacious Ocean Breeze facility has a large grandstand for spectators, and has also allowed the meet to return to a one-day format with both genders competing together. This is a great move by the NJSIAA, who are sending a clear message that they want NJ athletes to perform at the best facilities possible so they can maximize their talent. This should help produce some all-time great performances!!!!  

Boys Meet of Champions Preview

4x800 Meter Relay Showcase - State Rankings

Assuming they run their top guns, NJ#1 Ridge and NJ#2 Kingsway have the potential to both go sub 7:50 in a race that could take a US#1 time to win.

Ridge blasted a US#2 7:50.02 to win at the Millrose Games, and Kingsway is US#5 at 7:52.76. Philipps Exeter of NH is US#1 with the 7:48.81 it ran at Easterns.

No other team in this race has broken 8:00, with West Windsor North (8:01.11) and Edison (8:05.29) the next two fastest teams in the race. 

55 Meter Hurdles - State Rankings

Look out for Dwight Henry!!!

The senior from Irvington is undefeated and has burned a NJ#1/US#3 7.27 this season. Henry, who ran his 7.27 on the slower Bennett Center track to win Group 4  last week, has his eye on the US #1 time of 7.21 and the meet record of 7.19 (Jermaine Collier of Trenton in 2012).

With a victory, Henry would join legendary Josh Evans as a M of C winner for Irvington in the hurdles. Evans, who won the HH at the indoor and outdoor M of C in 2009, went on to star on the football field at the University of Florida before playing in the NFL.   

Henry will have to be on his "A" game to come out on top against a strong field that includes his Essex County rival, Terrel Williams of Columbia. Williams is NJ#2/US#6 with a 7.32. Also keep on eye on Anthony Vazquez of Egg Harbor Twp, who has run a NJ#3 7.45 this season.

At the Group 4 meet last week, Williams was second to Henry in 7.37 and Vazquez was third in 7.48.

55 Meter Dash - State Rankings

Sparks should be flying in this one as NJ#1 and defending champion Louis Akpadago of Nottingham (6.33) and NJ#2 James Bivins of Donovan Catholic (6.39) clash for the first time this season in a matchup that will very likely produce a new meet record. 

Akpadago, who ran 6.40 to win the Group 3 title, equaled the meet record last year when he finished first in 6.38. He's seeking to become just the fourth boy to win two straight titles.

Bivins, the Non-Public A winner in 6.48, is also entered in the 200 and long jump.

Looking for a darkhorse who could pull off the upset? Group 4 champ Ola Porbeni (6.44), Miekel House of Rancocas Valley (6.45) and Ahmad Brock of Egg Harbor (6.47) all have the potential to steal this race if they can get a great start.

400 Meter Dash - State Rankings

Gabriel Moronta of Pleasantville, headed to Mississippi State, took over the NJ#1 spot when he won the two-lapper at the Group 2 meet in 48.79, but there is a good chance he'll just focus on the 800. 

If Moronta scratches from the 400, Ramy Berberena of North Brunswick and Liam O'Hara of CBA, who along with Moronta were the only runners to go under 50.0 at the Group Championships. should battle it out for the gold. 

Berberena, the M of C winner in the 400 hurdles last spring,  ran 49.79 to win Group 4 and has run 49.53 this season. O'Hara won the Non-Public A race in 49.95 and has a season best of 49.21, a school record.  

1600 Meter Run - State Rankings

There is a little bit of mystery in the 1,600, and the potential for Liam Murphy of Allentown to take the first step toward making some history.

Murphy, who turned in a sparkling distance double when he won the 1,600 in a NJ#1 4:13.83 and the 3,200 in 9:04.41 at the Group 3 meet, said he plans to try to become just the third boy to ever win both those races at the same M of C. Brian Boyett of Parsippany Hills (2001) and Craig Forys of Colts Neck (2006) pulled it off. 

But to do so, Murphy, a two-time M of C winner (indoors in the 3,200 and this past XC season) will have to take down loaded fields in both.

But how loaded the 1,600 will be is up in the air.

Jack Jennings of Mendham, Murphy's future teammate at Villanova, said he most likley won't double. He was to second to Murphy in the 1,600 (4:14.63) and the 3,200 (9:09.27) at the Group 3 meet. 

Whichever race that Jennings, the State Group 3 XC champ and an FL XC All-American, chooses he will obviously be a major factor and capable of winning as he seeks his first M of C title.

But this is far from a two-man race.

Group 4 champ Gavin Richards of North Hunterdon, and Group 4 runner-up Stone Caraccio of Kingsway should also be in the mix, and possibly Colorado-bound Shaw Powell of CBA. Powell may run the 3,200 instead.

Richards won Group 4 in 4:18.08 and Carracio was second in 4:19.61, but Carracio has run 4:15.35 for the mile. Powell, the Non-Public A 1,600 and 3,200 champ, has a season best of 4:17.79 for the mile.

800 Meter Run - State Rankings

This race looks like a toss-up on paper between several runners. Elijah Brown of Union Catholic, who has run 1:56.26 this season, is the defending champion and seems poised to drop a huge season best time just like he did a year ago.     

Nick Medeiros of Old Bridge is the state leader with a 1:53.68, but he was knocked off at the Group 4 meet by Jordan Kaplan of Monroe, who ran a NJ#2 1:53.90 to finish first.

Group 2 winner Gabriel Moronta of Pleasantville, who is the top seed in the 400, has gone 1:54.59. Kyle Reeers of Delaware Valley, the Group 1 champ, has a season best of 1:55.97. Jalen Ridgeway of Toms River South (1:55.66) and Nicholas Ortiz of Pasasic (1:56.16) round out the list of sub 1:57 runners toeing the line.

Like many 800s, this race will likely come down to who has the strongest kick. Who does that favor? Brown and Moronta both have open 400s of 48 and change, and last spring, Kaplan ran 49.00 and Medeiros 49.09. That means this is shaping up to be one of the most dramatic finishes of the meet.

200 Meter Run Showcase - State Rankings

There is a strong possibility that the first sub 22.00 of the season will come as NJ#1 Quincy Hendy, a junior  at West Side, brings his 22.02 to the start line. His biggest challengers should be NJ#3 Greg McQueen, a sophomore speedster at Elizabeth, NJ#4 Aaron Stillitano of Middletown South, Louis Akpadago of Nottingham, and James Bivins of Donovan Catholic.  

McQueen checks in with a 22.07, Stillitano has run 22.10, Akpadago, the 55 dash favorite, is next with a 22.14, and Bivins has a season best of 22.16. 

3200 Meter Run - State Rankings

Liam Murphy, who won the greatest 3,200 duel in state indoor history last year over Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Boro, 8:54.22 to 8:54.45, the two fastest times in meet history, leads one of the deepest fields assembled at the M of C.    

As many as 10 guys who have gone under 9:17 could lock up in this race.

If Jack Jennings of Mendham opts for this race (he may run the 1,600 instead), then it could take sub-9 to win in what could be another classic.

The rest of the field includes Duke-bound Austin Gabay of Cinnaminson, the Group 2 winner in 9:12.77, Oliver Adler of Cherry Hill East, who won Group 4 in 9:13.87, Syracuse-bound Ethan Wechsler of Cherokee (9:13.90), Jackson Braddock of Southern (9:16.27), Martin Riddell of Haddonfield (9:16.29), and Vidur Polam of South Brunswick (9:16.63). 

There are two other sub 9:12 runners who could run in this-Shaw Powell of CBA (9:09.12 last spring), and Troy Hill of CBA (9:11.76 last spring). Powell and Hill also qualified in the 1,600, so they could run that instead.   

4x400 Meter Relay - State Rankings

Union Catholic, the winner in 2014, '15, '16, is favored to win its fourth title in seven years as the Vikings will bring a NJ#1 3:20.70 to the start line. UC ran that time to win at the Millrose Games, and could challenge the meet record of 3:18.26 set by East Orange Campus in 2017.

There is a good chance this could be a baton battle between Union County squads as Union comes in with a NJ#2 3:21.28, which it ran to win the Union County Championships.

Montclair (3:22.20) and Jackson (3:22.62) are the best of the rest. 

High Jump - State Rankings

Jamier Wright-Collins of Paterson Kennedy has been the favorite to win this since he cleared a NJ#1 6-9 at the Passaic County Championships in January. He matched that clearance when he won the HJ at the Eastern States Championships.

Wright-Collins has some strong competition in Foluso Adedeji of Weequahic, who is NJ#2 at 6-8,  and 6-7 jumpers Aden Tomeo of Audubon, Kameron Smith of Willingboro, and Dailan Peck of Ewing.  

Long Jump - State Rankings

James Bivins of Donovan Catholic and Floyd Whitaker of Highland Regional, the top two jumpers in the state, will square off.

Bivins is NJ#1 with a 23-1.50, an inch further than Whitaker's NJ'#2 23.0.50. But Whitaker defeated Bivins when they last meet at the Easterns when Whitaker was first and Bivins third.

Lorvensky Wilbrun of Elizabeth (22-6.50) and Nana Agyemang of Parsippany Hills (22-5.50) should also be in the hunt for the top spot.

Triple Jump - State Rankings

Floyd Whitaker of Highland, the outdoor M of C TJ winner last spring who started the season on the basketball team, is the clear favorite. He has bounded out to a NJ# 1 46-10.75 this season. That's nearly a foot further than anyone else.

Sebasteon Allen of East Orange is NJ#2 at 45-11, and Keven Kevelier of Collingswood is right behind him with a NJ#3 45-10. 

Shot Put - State Rankings

Who will be crowned the king of the ring?

It looks like a three-man battle between Patrick Passalacqua of Old Tappan, the state leader and US#7 at 61-7.75, John Purvis of Winslow, NJ#2/US#9 60-10.75, and Eros Bottino of CBA, NJ#3 with a 59-9.50. 

Last week, Passalacqua and Purvis hit their PR's when they clashed in a memorable duel in Group 3 that Passalacqua won by eight inches. Bottino, the state Non-Public A champ, seems destined to finally to bust through the 60-foot barrier.  

Pole Vault - State Rankings

Don't take your eyes off this event as Bradley Jelmert of Watchung Hills, who has flirted with the state record all season, takes another crack at becoming the best vaulter in state indoor history.

The Arkansas-State-bound Jelmert, who was second last year and first at the outdoor M of C, has cleared a NJ#2 all-time and US#5 16-10 this season. So the meet record of 16-0 stands little chance of surviving. The bigger question is will Jelmert take down the state record of 17-0 set in 1980 by Bill Lange of Bridgewater East at the Dartmouth Relays? 

Another historical note - two vaulters have never cleared 16-0 in meet history, but Jelmert and Marco Morales of Delsea could change that. Morales made a NJ#2 16-0 last month at Ocean Breeze.