Boys NJSIAA Meet of Champions Recap

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Meet and facility records went down, controversy swirled, Liam Murphy's emotional roller coaster ride concluded with an epic performance in a dramatic and electrifying 3,200, and Floyd Whitaker was a double winner at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Sunday on Staten Island.

In the first ever state championship meet held outside of NJ soil, the 52nd annual meet had a little bit of everything! There is so much to unpack. 

Let's start out with all the records. 

The meet started with a bang when Kingsway and Ridge squared off a great 4x800 baton battle.

Ridge, which came in as the top seed and defending champs, had the lead at the final handoff. 

But Kingsway's Stone Caraccio dropped a 1:52.84 anchor to bring Kingsway across first in a US#1 and meet record 7:47.50! Ridge was second in a US #3 7:49.51. 

Splits for Kingsway - senior Ethan Bentley-1:59.87, sophomore Jeff Heineman-1:58.61, sophomore.Kyle Rakitis-PR of 1:56.16, and 1:52.84 for Caraccio


Running on a banked track with 1/4 inch spikes certainly played a part in a pair of sprint records as Hamilton North flexed its speed with an amazing performance.

Louis Akpadago won the 55 dash for Hamilton North for the second straight year with a meet record time of 6.34. Akpadago, who shared the meet record with his 6.38 from last year, ran just off his NJ#1 6.33.

Then in the 200,  Hamilton North, US#2 in the 4x200 at 1:27.89, went 1-2-3 in the 200!

Sophomore Shamali Whittle led the charge by blasting a NJ#1 21.68 to take down the meet record of 21.75 set last year by Mario Heslop of Franklin. Akpadago was second in the 200 in 21.76, and  Dana Ridley completed the broom job by getting third for Hamilton North in 21.90.


The fourth and final meet record was set by Watchung Hills senior Bradley Jelmert, who cleared 16-0 1/4 to break the meet mark in the pole vault of 16-0 set in 2013 by Craig Hunter of Robbinsville. Jelmert, who already owns the high school facility record of 16-6.5, has cleared a US#5 16-10 this season, No. 2 in state history. 


In a race that produced four of the top 10 times in the country this season and the state freshman record, Gabe Moronta pf Pleasantville used a 28.1 last 200 and timed his lethal kick just right as he stormed his way from fourth to first to win the four-lapper in a huge PR, high school facility record, and US#4 1:52.46.

Moronta edged Nicholas Medeiros of Old Bridge, second in a US#7 1:52.76. Kyle Reers of Delaware Valley was third in a US#8 1:52.81,defending champ Elijah Brown of Union Catholic finished fourth in a US#10 1:53.26, and Pennsauken's Bryce Tucker ran a state freshman record 1:56.75. 

Jalen Ridgeway of Toms River North was fifth in 1:53.73, No. 2 in state history for a sophomore. He just missed the state soph. record of 1:53.65 set in 2017 by Alfred Chawonza of St. Benedict's Prep. 


The Union Catholic boys took down the high school facility record and nearly broke the meet record with its US#2 time of 3:18.78 to win the 4x400. The Vikings smashed the facility record of 3:19.91 set on Saturday by Huntington at the NY State Championships with the No. 2 in meet history,  just missing the meet record of 3:18.26 set in 2017 by East Orange.  

In a battle between Union County rivals, UC edged Union, which ran a US# 3 3:19.09, No. 3 in meet history. It's the fourth title in the past seven years for UC, who also won in 2014, '15, '16.

UC's splits were 49.90 for Tyhir Jones, 50.66 for Connor Cooper, 49.85 for Myles Plummer, and 48.27 for Elijah Brown, who used a huge last 100 to rally past Union for the win. 


There haven't been many runners in meet history who experienced more of an emotional roller coaster than Liam Murphy did on Sunday.

But when the dust settled, the stud at Allentown produced one of the greatest performances in state history.  

The Villanova-bound Murphy was involved in the most controversial race of the meet in the 1,600, and then  came back about an hour later to complete an epic double in an instant classic by winning the 3,200 vs. future college teammate Jack Jennings of Mendham as both guys crashed to the track after going sub nine!

Murphy, seeking to become just the third boy to ever win the 1,600 and 3,200 at the same M of C, started out his quest for the rare double in a wild and crazy 1,600. 

Murphy led when the bell sounded in the seeded heat, and thought he won the race when he crossed first after completing what he assumed was the final lap. But the bell came a lap too early. So after Murphy and the others runners crossed the line after 1,400 meters, they stopped running, thinking the race was over.. But they started running again a few seconds later after coaches and fans started yelling that they had a lap to go. 

After Murphy and the rest of the guys in the seeded heat regrouped and ran the final 200, Murphy crossed the line first in 4:17.35. Murphy, who had Shaw Powell of CBA pushing him hard before the bell debacle, was at 3:10.5 for 1,200 and 3:37.40 for 1400, so he had a great shot at sub 4:10. Powell , 3:38.29 at 1,400, was also headed for a time close to 4:10.   

A final decision on whether the results of the 1,600 will stand is expected to be made by the NJSIAA on Monday, but Murphy deserves to be declared the winner.

About an hour after that, Murphy was back on the track. 

This time he and Jennings waged one of the greatest finishes in state history in the best 3,200 race in meet history.

After Austin Gabay of Cinnaminson jumped to the front at the bell, Murphy caught Gabay on the backstretch and started to open a gap on him. But then Jennings, who was about 15 meters behind, mounted a furious charge and eventually passed Murphy coming off the final turn, and it appeared that Jennings would win.

But then Murphy dug down deep and answered back with a huge surge just before the line to catch Jennings in an all-time great finish.

Murphy stopped the clock at 8:58.16, and Jennings was second in a NJ#8 all-time 8:58.19, a 10 second PR! Gabay nearly cracked nine as well, placing third in a Burlington County record and NJ#11 all-time 9:00.27, more than 12 seconds faster than his previous PR. 

Murphy and Jennings, who both tumbled to the track after they crossed the line, ran 4:25 and change for the final 1,600! Murphy ran 58.2 for his final 400 and 26.5 for his last 200. Jennings went 57.9 and 25.9. That's moving!!!! 

This is the first time in state indoor history that three runners ran 9:00 or faster in the same race. And the times by Murphy, Jennings, and Gabay are No. 5, No. 6, and No. 9, respectively, in the country this season.   

This is the second straight dramatic 3,200 title for Murphy, who set the meet record with a NJ#3 all-time  8:54.22 when he caught defending champ Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Boro (now at Stanford) just before the line last year at the Bennett Center.

Murphy's 3,200 title raises his career M of C titles to four, assuming his 1,600 victory stands. He also won the XC M of C this past fall, so he now has a chance for the distance triple crown (a M of C title in all 3 seasons in the same school year).         

Murphy will join Brian Boyett of Parsippany Hills (2001) and the legendary Craig Forys of Colts Neck (2006) as the only boys to win the 1,600 and 3,200 at the same M of C if his 1,600 victory is upheld.

Regardless of the fact that we'll never now how fast Murphy would have run in the 1,600 if it weren't for the premature bell, his performance will always be remembered as one for the ages. It's the stuff NJ legends are made of! 

And give Jennings a ton of credit, he took it out hard in an effort to make Murphy's already tired legs feel the pain. And then when it seemed like his legs were dead, Jennings found another gear and emptied his tank with a dramatic final push set the stage for the thrilling finish!


Junior Floyd Whitaker, who began this season playing on Highland's varsity basketball team, won the triple jump with a mark of 46-3.25, and then captured the long jump in dramatic fashion when he soared a personal best 23-5.50 on his final attempt to rally from second to first-place. Whitaker edged Tyler Heller of Hunterdon Central, who placed second with a 23-2.25

This is the first year that the TJ was contested at the M of C, so Whitaker, who won the TJ at the outdoor M of C last spring, is the first to ever win the LJ and TJ.


One of the biggest surprise winners of the meet was Adam Gorka. The junior at South Brunswick was the No. 9 seed after placing fourth in Group 4 last week. But he pulled off the upset by dropping  a 

huge PR of 48.66 in the next t last heat!

"I was just hoping to place somewhere in the top six,''' said Gorka. "I definitely wasn't expecting to win! I am very surprised. This is incredible!''  

Another big upset came in the 55 hurdles when Anthony Vazquez became Egg Harbor's first M of C winner when he blazed a big PR and US#6  7.31, No. 6 in meet history! Vazquez, whose previous best was 7.45, defeated heavily favored and previously undefeated Dwight Henry of Irvington, second in 7.34. Henry owns a NJ#1/US#3 7.27. Terrel Williams of Columbia, who has run a US#7 7.32 this season, false started in the final.   


Patrick Passalacqua of Old Tappan, third last year and eighth this past spring in the shot put at the Meet of Champions, won his first M of C title with a throw of 61-4 1/2. Passalacqua, who has improved by over six feet this season, owns the NJ#1 throw this season of 61-7.75, which is US#7. Chris Tavarone of Morris Knolls placed second in the shot with a US#12 60-5.75    


After two near misses at winning M of C titles in the past, Jamier Wright-Collins of Paterson Kennedy finally got his title.

Wright-Collins, second last winter and again the runner-up this past spring in the high jump at the M of C, went over 6-10 on his final attempt to secure the high jump title. That is a new PR and a NJ#1 for Wright-Collins!