Inspired By Heavy Hearts, McQueen, Givan Shine At Union Meet

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Greg McQueen of Elizabeth and Nick Givan of Union Catholic each competed with heavy hearts at the Union County Championships on Friday at Hub Stine Field in Plainfield.

And both junior stars used the inspiration they drew from the recent passing of grandparents to fuel them to sensational performances as their squads battled with each other right to the end in a great team battle in the boys competition. 

In a season that McQueen has dedicated to his grandmother, Baddriyah Ali, who passed away last month, the junior at Elizabeth put together an electrifying performance over the two-day meet as he burned up the track by collecting four medals, including a breathtaking carry on the winning 4x400 that ran the fastest time in the state this season.

McQueen won the 100-meter dash in a NJ#4 10.85, and the 400 (49.20 ) on Thursday, and came back and captured the 200 in a NJ#3 21.65, and split 47.26 on the second leg of the 4x400 to give Elizabeth the lead for good as the Minutemen dropped a blistering 3:18.52. Zyeim Lawrence (51.45), Vance Thelemaque (50.31), and Antonio Roopchand (49.11) ran the other three legs for Elizabeth.

McQueen competed while wearing a necklace that has grandmother's photo in a locket.

"I never take it off,'' said McQueen, whose grandmother passed away on April 1. "My grandmother will always be with me wherever I go, and everything I do on the track is dedicated to her. I think about her every day, I know she's always looking down, and I'm going to do everything I can do to make her proud.''

McQueen joins a very short list of athletes who have won four gold medals at the Union County Championships. He said this quadruple gold performance means a lot to him, but there is still work to be done.

"I know I can run faster, and I will run faster,'' said McQueen. "I want to win at the Meet of Champions, and want to help my team be the best 4x400 team in the state, and think we can get down to 3:17 and even 3:16 to be the No. 1 team at the end of the season.''

Despite McQueen's epic performance, it still wasn't enough to help the Minutemen capture a fourth straight title.  

Union Catholic, behind Givan and the dynamic distance duo of Shane Brosnan, and Myles Plummer, dethroned Elizabeth, 85-77, to capture its first title since 2015. The Vikings were second the previous four years. 

It was a very emotional day for Givan, whose grandfather passed away earlier in the day.

But he found a way to push through the mental anguish and stepped up big for his team by winning the 110-meter hurdles in 15.05 and splitting 49.5 on the runner--up 4x400. Givan also won the 400 hurdles in a NJ#7 54.96 and was fourth in the 400 on Thursday to account for 24 points, and helped the relay earn eight more points.

"It was obviously a very tough day for me,'' said Givan. "I dedicated this meet to my grandfather, and I made sure I gave it my all for him out there today..''

Givan was one of several UC athletes who sparkled to lead the Vikings to the team title. 

Brosnan and Plummer, also juniors, combined for 38 individual points.

Brosnan, who won the 1,600 in a NJ#4 and national qualifying 4:12.91 on Thursday, came back to take first in the 3,200 in 9:23.91, and Plummer, second to Brosnan in the 1,600 in 4:14.31, won the 800 in 1:53.83, and split 49.2 on the runner-up 4x400.

Also for UC, Connor Cooper came up with a pivotal third in the 200 and also captured fourth in the 100, and led off the 4x400, Aidan Reidy was fifth in the pole vault with a one-foot PR of 9-0, Al-Qamar Rojas placed fifth in the 400 hurdles, and Jimmy Wischusen earned a sixth in the 3,200 in 9:43.65, the second fastest time in the state this season by a freshman. Wischusen also ran a 4:25.98 to place eighth in the 1600 on Thursday, which is the fastest time in the state for a freshman.  

 "It was a total team effort,'' said Givan. "We need everyone to step up for us to beat a great team like Elizabeth, and Shane, Myles, Connor, and everyone else came through for us.''    

There were two other double winners in the boys competition, both in the field.

Linden senior Allen Elome captured the triple jump (44-6), and the long jump (22-3), and Westfield senior Braden Stryker won the shot put (51-6.50) and the discus (172-1).