To say that the past decade of track and field in New Jersey was lit would be a major understatement. The last 10 years in the Garden State were more like an absolute smoke show!
Just how hot was it?
How about the greatest decade of all-time?
That's right, the amount of stud athletes that ran, threw, and jumped their way across New Jersey since 2010 just might be the best collection of athletes to ever grace the ovals, runways, and circles in the Garden State during any 10-year span.
I realize how tough it is to compare eras, and I know all about how the old timers practically ran barefoot on a tracks made of dirt and dust and vaulters once used bamboo poles and so on and so on. I get all that, believe me I really do.
But the clock and the numbers don't lie, and they are simply staggering.
NJ MileSplit has put together an All-Decade Track and Field Team from 2010 through 2019, and there are 11 boys and 12 girls on the All-Decade Team who either own a state record or held a state record at one time, including some who own multiple state records. There are even four Olympians on the team, who all reached the Olympics before the age of 25.
If you don't feel this past decade was the best ever, be my guest and make a case that there was a better, deeper, more talented group of boys and girls from another decade.
In the meantime, the evidence to show that the 2010s were indeed the best decade ever will be presented to you as NJ MileSplit unveils it's All-Decade Team.
But before you start looking at the teams listed below (I know you already did), you probably want to know how the teams were chosen, right?
Selections were made based on pre-college performances from both indoors and outdoors, which is why you'll see the 55 dash and 55 hurdles on the list. Everything from PR's, to state records, to major titles, and body of work were part of the equation. There is no perfect formula, and you may disagree with some choices. But that's okay. Part of the fun that comes from selecting these teams are the great debates they generate among all you great track and field junkies out there.
And in an effort to recognize as many talented athletes as possible, no athletes were chosen for more than one event. Yes, I know there are some athletes who could have been placed in more than one event and perhaps were more dominant in a different event, but as I mentioned earlier, the idea was to get as many of the best athletes from the decade on this list somewhere. That's why you will see some athletes who aren't listed in their strongest events.
Okay, it's time to turn back the hands of time ever so slightly, and take a look back at arguably the greatest decade in NJ T&F history.
NEW JERSEY'S All-DECADE (2010 - 2019)
BOYS DECADE T&F TEAM
BOYS DECADE T&F TEAM
Event - Name, Team, Graduating Year
55m - Damiere Byrd, Timber Creek, 2011
Byrd, a wide receiver who signed with the New England Patriots last week, set the state record in the 55m dash (6.26) and the 60m dash (6.70), and he won the 60m at the 2011 New Balance Nationals Indoor.
Outdoors, Byrd won the 100 at the 2011 MOCs in 10.41, and ran a PR of 10.36, No. 4 in state history, at the 2001 SJ Group 3 meet.
After starring on the football field at South Carolina, Byrd signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 as an undrafted free agent.
100m - Mario Heslop, Franklin Township, 2019
One of the greatest sprinters in state history, Heslop repeated as 100m champion at the Meet of Champions last spring in 10.53, and came back to blast a 20.74 to win the 200m dash, the second fastest time (F.A.T., all conditions) ever run in state history. Heslop finished his career last spring with eight Meet of Champions titles.
Heslop, now a freshman at North Carolina A&T, also ran 10.33 in the 100 last spring, the No. 3 all conditions time in state history.
Indoors, Heslop won four M of C titles, captured the 2019 New Balance Indoor National title in the 200, ran a state record 20.90 in the 200, and equaled Byrd's state records of 6.26 in the 55 and 6.70 in the 60 when he was third at the NBNI last winter.
200m - Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic, 2014
Peppers, who started his high school career at Don Bosco Prep and now plays defensive back for the New York Giants, became only the second sprinter in state history win both the 100 and 200 at the Meet of Champions in back to back seasons.
At the 2013 Meet of Champions, Peppers won the 100 in 10.80, and the 200 in 21.13. In 2014, he successfully defended those titles by running 10.55 and 21.13. The 21.13 by Peppers is No. 8 in state history. He ran his 100 PR of 10.51 when he won the 2013 Non-Public A title.
Peppers attended Michigan and was fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2016. He was a first-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2017, and was traded to the New York Giants last year.
400m - Najee Glass, St. Peter's Prep, 2012
A hamstring injury derailed a likely three-peat in the 400 at the outdoor Meet of Champions in 2012, but Glass still compiled a remarkable resume, which was highlighted by his victory in the 400 at the 2012 New Balance Nationals Indoor in a state record 46.06. Glass, a multiple All-American at the University of Florida, also ran a state record and U.S. #4 all-time 1:02.16 in the 500 in 2012, and had a PR of 21.48 in the 200.
800m - Luis Peralta, Passaic, 2019
Peralta won a total of three Meet of Champions titles in the 800 (two outdoors and one indoors), and captured the 800 at the 2018 New Balance Nationals Outdoor in 1:49.10, No. 5 in state outdoor history. He also placed second in the 800 at the 2019 NBNO, second at the 2019 NBN Indoor, and third at the 2018 NBNI. Peralta is now a freshman at Oregon.
Peralta also ran the fastest 600 in the nation in 2019 with a NJ#3 all-time 1:19.14, No. 15 in U.S. history.
1600m - Sean Dolan, Hopewell Valley, 2019
Dolan, the 2018 New Balance Outdoor National Champion in the mile, ran 4:05.01, No. 4 in state outdoor history, at the 2019 Brooks PR Invite, captured the 2019 Outdoor Meet of Champions 1600m in 4:09.14, ran 1:50.53 in the 800, and 9:02.66 in the 3200.
Dolan and Edward Cheserek are the only runners in state history to run under 1:51 for 800, under 4:10 for the mile, and under 9:05 for 3200m.
At the 2018 Penn Relays, Dolan blasted a monster 4:07.57 anchor to bring Hopewell Valley from way back to capture the DMR Championship of American title in a meet record 9:57.77. Dolan is now a freshman at Vilanova
As a junior in 2010, Rosa captured the two-mile title with a state record time of 8:44.06, the national junior class record at the time, at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. Rosa seemed like he was on his way to breaking his record at the 2011 Meet of Champions, but in one of the most controversial decisions in state history, the 3200m was stopped by meet officials because of lightning with one lap to go after Rosa ran 7:38 for 2,800 meters.
Rosa, who went on to an All-American career at Stanford, is the first runner ever to break 15 minutes at Holmdel Park (14:56 in 2009), and he also ran 4:07.66 in the mile in his high school career.
5000m - Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict's Prep, 2013
"King Chez", the greatest distance runner in state history, ran a state and national indoor record 13:57.04 in the 5K at the 2012 Millrose Games. He also ran a state outdoor record 14:02.33 in the 5K at the 2011 Larry Ellis Invitational.
At the 2012 New Balance Nationals Indoor, Cheserek ran a then national indoor record 8:39.15 for two miles. He also anchored St. Benedict's to victory in the DMR at the 2011 New Balance Nationals Outdoor in a state record 9:51.97, and ran a state indoor record 4:02.21 in the mile, and had an 800 PR of 1:49.98.
Cheserek went on to set an NCAA men's record at Oregon by winning 17 individual NCAA titles. He now runs professionally.
55H - Sincere Rhea, St. Augustine, 2019
Rhea, now starring at Penn State, captured the 60m hurdle title at the 2019 New Balance Nationals Indoor in 7.64, No. 2 in state history. He also won the 55 HH at the Meet of Champions in 2018 and 2019, and ran NJ#2 all-time 7.10 in the 55 HH.
Last spring, Rhea finished first in the 400 at the 2019 outdoor MOCs, and ran a NJ#3 all-time 13.51 when he placed second in the HH at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor.
110H - Cory Poole, East Orange Campus, 2017
Poole broke Taylor McLaughlin's 400 IH state record when he ran 50.14 at the 2017 Pan Am Junior Championships, and also set the state records in the 55m HH (7.07) and 60m hurdles (7.63) at the 2017 New Balance Nationals.
At the 2017 Outdoor MOCs, Poole ran a meet record 50.72 when he won his second straight 400m hurdles title, repeated as 110m hurdle champs, and anchored the winning 4x400 to become the fourth boy to win three golds at the same MOCs.
Poole also ran on East Orange's national record breaking shuttle hurdle team that ran 28.62 at the 2017 New Balance Nationals, and on the national championship 4x400 and shuttle teams outdoors. Poole, now starring at the University of Florida, ran a NJ#2 all-time 13.46 in the 110m HH, and finished his career with five individual MOCs titles.
400H - Taylor McLaughlin, Union Catholic, 2015
McLaughlin, who had an All-American career at Michigan, ran a then state record 50.20 to place second in the 400 IH at the 2015 New Balance Nationals. He also won three individual MOCs titles in his career, and became just one of five boys in state history to win four individual races at the same Group Championship meet. He won the 400 IH, the 400, the 110H and the 200m at the 2015 Non-Public A meet.
In addition to his 50.20 in the IH, McLaughlin also had PR's of 46.80 in the 400, 21.30 in the 200, and 13.94 in the HH. He ran on multiple national championship winning relays in the 4x200 and 4x400.
At Michigan, he won multiple Big Ten titles, and advanced to the finals of the 400 hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Trials.
HJ - Mark Jones, Summit, 2011
Jones, who starred at the University of Colorado, won three Meet of Champions titles in the high jump (two indoors and one outdoors), captured two national titles (one indoors, and one outdoors), including a 7-0.25 to win the 2011 New Balance Indoor National Championship. He also went 23-6.5 in the LJ, 42-6 in the TJ, and 14.59 in the HH.
LJ - Anthony Averett, Woodbury, 2013
Averett, now a defensive back on the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL, is the only long jumper during the decade to win two MOCs titles in the event. His biggest jump came when he soared 25-2.5 at the 2012 Woodbury Relays, No. 2 in state history.
Averett, who was also a state and Eastern champ in the 55 dash and a multiple state champ in the high jump, helped lead Alabama to a national championship in football in 2017. He was chosen in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Ravens.
TJ - Khaliel Burnett, Delsea, 2018
Burnett, who won two straight Meet of Champions titles in the triple jump, soared a state record 50-9.25 when he won the 2018 State Group 3 title. He also went 50-4 at the South Jersey, Group 3 meet.
SP - Nick Vena, Morristown, 2011
Vena, the greatest shot putter in state history, won nine Meet of Champions titles in his career, five outdoors (one discus, four in the shot), and four indoors in the shot. He's the only boy to ever win the same event four straight years at the MOCs.
Vena, a four-time National Indoor Champion in the shot, smashed his own state record on the final throw of his high school career when he sent the 12-pound ball soaring 75-10.25 at the 2011 Meet of Champions.
He threw 70 feet or beyond a staggering 96 times in his career! After a year at the University of Virginia, Vena went on to an All-American career at Georgia. He still competes.
DIS - Sam Mattis, East Brunswick, 2012
Mattis, who unloaded a state record 218-4 in the discus at the 2012 GMC Relays, is the only boy to win three discus titles at the Meet of Champions, and he won two national titles in high school.
After high school, Mattis won the 2015 NCAA title in the discus for UPenn, was second at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, and he won the U.S. National title last July. He placed 11th at the 2019 World Championships.
JAV - Nick Mirabelli, Rancocas Valley, 2018
Mirabelli, now at Texas A&M, broke the state record in the javelin with a throw of 227-10 to win the 2018 Meet of Champions title. He also placed third in the javelin at the 2018 New Balance Nationals.
As a freshman at Texas A&M, Mirabelli threw as PR of 234-2, placed seventh at the SEC Championships, and finished third at the US Junior Nationals.
PV - Bradley Jelmert, Watchung Hills, 2020
This past indoor season, the Arkansas State-bound Jelmert cleared 16-10 in the pole vault, No. 2 in state history, and has now made 16-0 or better in 12 meets during his career. He also won the outdoor MOCs title last spring, and captured the indoor pole vault crown at the MOCs last month.