Vanriele And Murphy Named Gatorade NJ T&F AOY

Victoria Vanriele of Governor Livingston and Liam Murphy of Allentown, two NJ all-time greats, were recently chosen as the 2019-20 Gatorade New Jersey Track & Field Athletes of the Year.

This is the third straight year that Vanriele has captured the prestigious award, and the second time that Murphy has been honored as Gatorade's NJ Boys AOY. 

The Villanova-bound Murphy, who was also named Gatorade's NJ XC Boys Athlete of the Year this past fall, is the first Gatorade Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year from Allentown. 

The Gatorade AOY award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.

Murphy's indoor season was highlighted by a remarkable distance double at the Meet of Champions in March at Ocean Breeze on Staten Island.

He won the 3200m at the M of C when he edged future Nova teammate Jack Jennings of Mendham in in an epic finish in 8:58.16, which ranked No. 5 nationally, Murphy appeared headed for a sub 4:10 victory in the seeded heat of the 1600m. But a race official accidentally rang the bell one lap too soon, causing the runners to stop a lap early. Most runners resumed running, including Murphy. Murphy's time, even after stopping, was still the fastest 1600m time of the meet. But the NJSIAA decided that the seeded heat would get medals for 1400m, and the unseeded heat would be awarded medals for 1600m.  

Murphy's 3200m/1400m double will go down as one of the best performances in Meet of Champions history, and one of the most controversial. Murphy's two titles gave him four M of C titles for his career. He also won the XC M of C this past fall, and the 2019 indoor 3200m with a PR of 8:54.22, the top time in the country during the season, and No. 2 in NJ indoor history.

Also this past winter, Murphy also won the 3200-meter run with a time of 9:04.41 at the Group 3 indoor state meet this past winter, also capturing the 1600 in 4:13.83, which ranked as the nation's No. 3 clocking among prep competitors during the 2020 indoor season. 

Murphy's XC season last fall was one of the best in recent state history.

Not only did Murphy win the M of C and run 15:21 at Holmdel Park, No. 8 in course history, but he also finished third at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championships, eighth at the Nike Cross Nationals to earn All-American, and a week later he was 25th at the Foot Locker Nationals. It was the second straight year that Murphy qualified to run at FL Nationals.  

Murphy, who maintained a 3.39 GPA in the classroom and volunteered locally on behalf of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, was poised for a huge finish to his indoor season before the pandemic knocked out the New Balance National Championships.

"Liam could not be beaten this winter, and he had his eye on two national championships before the indoor national meet was cancelled," said Allentown coach Rick Smith. "The cancellation of the spring season hurts that much more because of what a complete runner Liam has become since the end of last spring. His race instincts and toughness have always set him apart, but over the last calendar year, I saw a young man realize his full potential."

Vanriele, who is headed to Penn State, will go down as one of the greatest half milers in NJ history, which is saying a lot considering that NJ has produced Joetta Clark, Ajee' Wilson, and Hazel Clark, all U.S. Olympians in the 800m.

At the indoor M of C, Vanriele became the first runner in NJ history to win four straight 800m titles, and is just the fifth athlete in meet history to capture four titles in any event. Vanriele joined Nicole Sims of Plainfield (shot put, 1990-93), Melanie Thompson of Voorhees (3200m, 2008-11), Olivia Baker of Columbia (400m, 2011-14), and Nick Vena of Morristown (shot put, 2008-11) as the only four-time MOCs indoor winners.

Vanriele, who also won three outdoor M of C titles in the 800, finished her remarkable career with a total of seven M of C titles,

Vanriele also won the 800m at the Group 2 State Championships with a time of 2:07.83 this past winter, which ranked as the nation's No. 6 prep performance during the 2020 indoor season, broke the All-Groups meet record, and smashed Vanriele's own facility record at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex 'The Bubble' in Toms River.

Vanriele also took second in the 600m at the prestigious Millrose Games with a time of 1:30.55, which ranked No. 2 nationally this winter.

In 2019, Vanriele won her third consecutive Meet of Champions outdoor title in the 800m, and she would have been favored finish her career a perfect eight-for-eight in the 800 at the M of C if the season hadn't been cancelled.

Vanriele, who has maintained a weighted 4.68 GPA in the classroom, also placed second in the 800m at the 2019 Brooks PR Invitational with a PR of 2:05.15, the nation's No. 5 among prep competitors last spring and No. 5 in state history, and reached the finals and finished 8th at the USATF U20 Championships.

Vanriele also finished her career No. 4 in state indoor history in the 800m with the 2:07.24 she ran to place fifth at the 2019 New Balance Nationals.  

Also a talented musician and a devoted member of her church community, Vanriele has raised funds to benefit hunger relief efforts and COVID-19 front-line responders, and has participated in an anti-bullying campaign.

"Victoria Vanriele is a force of nature," said Governor Livingston coach Daniel Guyton. "The only regret is that she did not get the opportunity to put the finishing touch on her spectacular career. It's my belief that she would have been able to shave considerable time off her personal best and would have been at or near the top of a list that features past, current and future Olympians."