To say that the past decade of track and field in New Jersey was lit would be an 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)
GIRLS DECADE T&F TEAM
GIRLS DECADE T&F TEAM
Event - Name, Team, Graduating Year
55m - English Gardner, Eastern Regional, 2010
Gardner, one of the greatest sprinters in state history, won six Meet of Champions titles in her career, including the 55 dash at the 2010 indoor MOCs, which came just 15 months after she completely tore her right anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, and lateral meniscus in a Powder Puff football game that wiped out her junior year (2009).
Gardner's other five MOCs titles came in the 55 and 400 indoors in 2007, the 100 in 2007, and the 100 and 200 in 2008. She also won the 2010 Eastern States title in 6.91, No. 6 in state history. Her times of 11.49 in the 100 and 23.60 in the 200 are both No. 4 in state history.
At the University of Oregon, Gardner won three NCAA titles, and she's captured two US National titles in the 100, including a PR of 10.74 to finish first at the 2016 Olympic Trials. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Gardner finished seventh in the 100 and ran the third leg for the US on the gold medal winning 4x100 that ran 41.01, the second fastest time ever run in the world.
100m - Myasia Jacobs, Paramus Catholic, 2012
Jacobs, who starred at Clemson and Georgia, collected seven Meet of Champions titles in her remarkable career, and ran some of the fastest sprint times in state history.
After winning the 100 and 200 at the Meet of Champions as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, Jacobs appeared headed for an unprecedented four-year sweep of those races before a leg injury ended her outdoor senior season prematurely. Otherwise, Jacobs would have likely wound up with nine MOCs titles.
Jacobs, who also won the 55 at the 2011 Indoor Meet of Champions, ran a state record 7.34 when she won the 60 at the 2011 New Balance National Championships. She finished her high school career with PR's of 6.82 in the 55, No. 3 in state history, 11.44 in the 100, No. 3 in state history, 23.73 in the 200, No. 7 in state history.
200m - Athing Mu, Trenton TC, 2020
The Texas A&M-bound Mu, who has some of the craziest range you'll ever see, has put together one of the greatest prep careers in U.S. history.
Mu holds the state indoor records in the 500m (1:10.22), 600m (1:23.57), 800m (2:03.98), and 1,000m (2:44.43). She also has a PR of 51.98 in the 400 (she's No. 2 in NJ history in that event, both indoors and outdoors), and has PR's of 23.63 in the 200, No. 4 in state outdoor history, and 5:00.46 in the mile.
At the 2019 USA Indoor National Championships, Mu shocked a world class field to win the 600m in 1:23.57, a new high school national record, a new American Record, a new U18 record, and a new World Junior record!
This past indoor season, Mu smashed the national high school record in the 500m (1:10.22) and also ran a nation-leading 37.36 in the 300m. Last spring, Mu ran 2:01.17, No. 2 in state history, when she placed fourth at the US Championships, and she won the 800 at the US Junior National Championships and the Pan Am Junior Championships.
400m - Olivia Baker, Columbia, 2014
Baker finished an astounding eight for eight in winning the 400 at the Meet of Champions in her career (four indoors and four outdoors), and is the only girl to ever win four gold medals at one Meet of Champions, capturing the 100, 200, 400 and anchoring the winning 4x400 at the 2013 meet in South Plainfeld.
She also won the 400 at the 2014 New Balance National Indoor Championships in a then state record 53.49, and outdoors, Baker ran a then state record 52.46 when she placed second at the 2014 US Junior National Championships. She was also named MVP of the Penn Relays two years in a row after huge anchor legs to bring Columbia from behind to win the 4x800, including a meet record 2:02.55 split in 2014.
After an All-American career at Stanford, Baker is now one of the top 800 runners in the country.
800m - Ajee' Wilson, Neptune, 2012
Wilson, the fastest 800 runner in U.S. history and currently the No. 1 800 runner in the country and one of the best in the world, set a NJ high school record when she won the 2012 World Junior Championship in 2:00.91, No. 2 in U.S. high school history at the time and now No. 6.in U.S. history.
She also won the World Youth titles in the 800 in 2011 and 2013, and captured the 800 at both the 2011 and 2012 New Balance Nationals Indoor. Wilson also finished her high school career wth PR's of 54.04 in the 400, and 4:43.92 for 1600m.
Wilson, who turned pro after high school and attended Temple, owns both the U.S. 800 records (1:58.29 indoors / 1:55.61 outdoors), and the U.S. outdoor 600 national record (1:22.39).
Last summer, Wilson won her third straight U.S. Outdoor National 800 title and fourth overall, and placed third at the World Outdoor Championships.
This past indoor season, she won her fifth U.S. National Indoor title in the 800 to give Wilson an astounding 11 U.S. national titles in her career. She has won five national indoor titles in the 800, four national outdoor titles in the 800, one national indoor title in the 600m, and one national championship indoor in the 1000m.
On the world stage, Wilson advanced to the semifinals of the 800 at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, was second at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, third at the 2017 World Outdoor Championships, and and second at the 2018 World Indoor Championships.
1600m - Briana Gess, Haddonfield, 2017
As a freshman in 2014, Gess won the first of three straight outdoor Meet of Champions title when when she defeated defending champion Josette Norris of Tenafly. She seemed headed for a fourth title in row before her bid for a four-peat was derailed by a foot injury as a senior in 2017.
Gess, who also won an indoor MOCs 1600m title, finished her career with 14 state Group titles (indoor and outdoors combined) and had PR's of 4:45.97 for 1600m, 57.25 for 400, 2:11.80 for 800, and 10:40.80 for 3200m. Gess is now at the University of Virginia.
3200m - Abby Loveys, Randolph, 2019
Loveys also won the 1600m at the 2018 MOCs in a PR 4:46.03, and ran 10:21.00, No. 3 in state indoor history and the fastest indoor time of the decade, when she was sixth in the two-mile at the 2018 New Balance Nationals Indoor.
Loveys, now a freshman at Princeton University, shattered the state record in the 3200m when she blasted a 10:10.24 at the 2019 Morris County Championships. That broke the 36-year-old record of 10:12.8 that was set by Michelle Rowen of Washington Twp in 1983.
5000m - Alexa Westley, Warren Hills, 2019
Westley, now starring at Wisconsin, smashed the state record in the 5K when she ran 16:34.66 to place fifth at the 2019 New Balance Nationals Outdoor. She also won three straight 3200m titles at the outdoor Meet of Champions, and has a 3200m PR of 10:15.82.
55H - Ste'yce McNeil, Winslow Township, 2012
In 2012, McNeil blasted a NJ#5 all-time 7.89 to win 2012 Eastern States title in the 55 hurdles, ran 7.94 to win the Meet of Champions, 7.92 to win the state Group 3 title, and 7.50 to place sixth in the 60m hurdles at New Balance Nationals.
As a junior in 2011, McNeil, who starred at Mississippi State, won the 100m hurdles at the Meet of Champions. She also had PR's of 13.79 in the 100m hurdles, 24.61 in the 200, and 56.06 in the 400.
100H - Grace O'Shea, Ramapo, 2019
O'Shea, now a freshman at UPenn, blasted her way to No. 5 all-time in state history when she ripped a Bergen County record 13.55 in the trials of the hurdles at the Meet of Champs last spring. She went on to win the MOCs title in 13.58, and ran 13.69 to place sixth at the New Balance Nationals.
Indoors, O'Shea won the hurdles at the 2011 indoor Meet of Champions, and ran a NJ#3 all-time 7.75 to win the Eastern championship.
400H - Sydney McLaughlin, Union Catholic, 2017
McLaughlin, widely considered the greatest high school female track and field athlete of all-time, became the youngest Olympian to compete for the U.S. in 44 years when she advanced to the semifinal round of the 400 hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio at the age of 17.
In high school, McLaughlin set state records outdoors in the 200 (22.96), the 400 (51.87), and the state and national records in both the 300 hurdles (38.90, and the 400 hurdles (53.82). She also ran on multiple national championship winning relays, including a a national record 49.85 split on the first-place Swedish relay that set a national record at the 2017 New Balance Nationals. She also ran the two fastest 400 splits in Penn Relays history, including a record 50.37.
Indoors, she won the 60m hurdles title in a state record 8.17 at the 2015 New Balance Nationals, set the state and national record when she won the 400 at the 2017 New Balance Nationals in 51.61, and anchored the winning 4x400 at the 2017 NB Nationals, which ran a state record 3:40.28.
In her one season at the University of Kentucky, McLaughlin set the NCAA 400 hurdle record of 52.75 at the SEC Championships, and captured that race at the 2018 NCAA Championships.
McLaughlin turned pro after her freshman year at Kentucky, and at the World Championship last summer she finished second in the 400 hurdles in 52.23, the second fastest time ever run in the world, and ran a leg on the winning 4x400.
HJ - Jenna Rogers, Rutherford, 2020
The University of Nebraska-bound Rogers broke the state record in the high jump when she cleared a then freshman national record 6-0.75 to win the high jump at the 2017 New Balance Outdoor National Championships .
Rogers, the State Volleyball Player of the Year this past fall, won the 2018 indoor Meet of Champions title in the high jump, won two Eastern titles, and cleared 5-10 or better in nine different meets.
Salisbury, who has smashed several school records and won numerous Patriot League titles at Bucknell, captured four Meet of Champions titles in her career (two in the LJ and two in the TJ), and soared 20-0 at the 2016 Passaic County Championships, No. 5 in state history. Salisbury was also one of the state's top sprinters, winning multiple state titles in the 55 indoors, and the 100 and 200 outdoors. At the 2016 State Group 1 meet, she won the 100, 200, LJ and TJ!
TJ - Keturah Orji, Mount Olive, 2014
The greatest horizontal jumper in state history, Orji, a U.S. Olympian in 2016, owns the state indoor (44-2) and outdoor record (44-11) in the triple jump, and she captured six Meet of Champions titles, three each in the LJ and TJ,. She also won six national titles, a World Youth Championship in the triple jump, and her high school PR in the LJ of 20-11.75 equaled the state record set in 1980 by Carol Lewis of Willingboro.
At the University of Georgia, Orji became the first person to ever win four NCAA outdoor triple jump titles, and finished her college career with a record total of eight NCAA titles-indoors and outdoors combined. In 2018, she won the 2018 Bowerman Award, track and field's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
At the US National Championships last July, Orji made history by soaring 47-7.25 to become the first to ever win the women's triple jump four straight years.
Orji, fourth in the TJ at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio with a then U.S. record 48-3.25, owns the Collegiate record of 47-8, is No. 2 all-time in U.S. history indoors with a 47-10.75, which was the American record
SP - Nickolette Dunbar, Whippany Park, 2016
Dunbar won three Meet of Champions titles in her career in the shot put, two indoors and one outdoors, captured the 2016 New Balance National Indoor title with a personal best throw of 54-7.5, and broke the state record on multiple occasions during her prolific career. Dunbar is now a senior at Alabama.
DIS - Alyssa Wilson, Donovan Catholic, 2017
The greatest thrower in state history, Wilson owns the state records outdoors in the shot put (58-1), discus (182-0), and the hammer (191-2), and indoors she set the national record in the shot put with a throw of 57-5.5 at the 2016 Easterns. She finished her career with four national titles (three in the shot put and one in the discus).
Wilson capped off her high school career in 2017 by winning the US Junior National title in the hammer throw and finishing first in both the shot and the hammer at the Pan-American Junior National Championships.
Wilson, now a junior at UCLA, won the hammer and the shot and was second in the discus at the 2018 US Junior National Championships, and has smashed several UCLA school records.
For the second year in a row last spring, Wilson was the only athlete in the nation to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the shot, discus and hammer, placing third in the hammer, seventh in the shot, and seventh in the discus. She was named the 2019 PAC-12 Women's Field Event Athlete of the Year.
This past indoor season, Wilson placed second in the weight throw at the USATF Championships and had the No. 2 throw in the NCAA in the weight throw with a UCLA record 75-4.75.
JAV - Brielle Smith, Oakcrest, 2019
Last spring, Smith became the first girl to win two straight javelin titles at the Meet of Champions since 2003 and unloaded a throw of 168-6 at the 2019 Woodbury Relays to break her own state record. In 2018, captured the javelin title at the New Balance Nationals, and won the Meet of Champions title with a meet record throw of 163-8, which was the state record until Smith's broke it last year. She is now a freshman at Stanford.
PV - Hayley Horvath, Notre Dame, 2018
Horvath, now a sophomore at Towson, cleared a state record 13-5.75 when she captured the pole vault title at the 2018 Outdoor Meet of Champions. She also made 13-0 to win the 2018 Non-Public A title, and captured the 2018 Indoor Meet of Champions title.
As a freshman at Towson, Horvath finished second at the both the USATF Junior National Championships and at the Pan-American Junior Championships.