Some big records came crashing down, a pair of dramatic 4x400's decided team titles, three teams were crowned state champs for the first time, and a rookie sensation missed a historic quad by the slimmest of margins at Saturday's State Groups 2-4 Championships at Franklin High School in Somerset.
This meet really did have it all!!!
Perez, a junior, ran a 5:07.57 first 1,600 on her way to dropping a 10:20.25 to win the Group 2 3,200, breaking the record of 10:22.41 that Abby Loveys of Randolph set in the Group 4 race in 2019. The full story with videos is here.
Then it was Braddock's turn in the boys Group 4 3,200. The full story with video is here.
After a 4:27.56 first 1,600, the Virginia-bound Braddock cranked it up even more as he finally started to open a gap on Ridge junior Jackson Barna, who ran a gutsy race to get under nine! Braddock ran 4:21.08 over the final 1,600, including a 61.41 last 400, and came hammering across the line in 8:48.64!!! That broke the All-Groups record of 8:56.91 set in 2011 by the great Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North in the state Group 3 race, and moved Braddock into the No. 5 spot in state history. Barna ran a huge PR of 8:56.49 to place second.
Then after the stands had emptied out and with just meet officials, and some coaches and a few spectators and athletes gathered around the pole vault runway, East Brunswick senior Brian McSweeney capped off the memorable meet with spectacular performance in the Group 4 pole vault. Full story with videos is here
McSweeney cleared 16-0 on his first attempt to tie the Group 4 meet mark and shatter the Middlesex County record as he took over the state lead this season. McSweeney took some good attempts at 16-5, but came up a little short. The Meet of Champions record of 16-4 that has stood since Todd Nesbitt of Millburn made that height in 1980, could be in jeopardy!!
Both of the Group 2 team titles came right down to the 4x400 relays.
In the girls Group 2 team competition, Demarest was clinging to a three-point lead over Haddonfield heading into the 4x400. so Haddonfield had to finish at least two places ahead of Demarest to rally for its first title since 2015.
The Dawgs responded to the challenge as senior Olivia Stoner (1:00.98), senior Lindsay Colflesh (59.17), freshman Ava Peifer (1:00.40), and senior Allison Colflesh (59.81) combined to win the 4x400 in 4:00.38. Demarest was third in the same heat and fourth overall giving Haddonfield a heart-pounding 70-67 victory over a very strong Demarest squad.
Haddonfield's distance crew led the charge for the Dawgs, racking up 54 points in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 combined.
Sitting in third-place in the standings behind both Delsea and Madison, Rumson's foursome of Jaden Lanfrank (52.47), Laef Golden (50.40), Joe Aglione (51.07), and Sam Coughlin (49.15) delivered a clutch victory in 3:23.13 to give the Bulldogs its first state title ever.
Rumson won with 41 points with Delsea and Madison tied for second with 40, and Newark Tech was fourth with 38 as Sincere Robinson scored every point. More on Robinson later.
Two months ago, Coughlin said he and his teammates were going to put Rumson on the state's track and field map. Mission accomplished!!!
There wasn't as much drama in the Group 4 team competition, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some great excitement as the Southern boys and Egg Harbor girls showcased their balance on the way to capturing their first state titles ever.
For the Southern boys, Braddock came back from his epic 3,200 victory to rally for second-place in the 800 to give his team a much needed eight points. And then with Southern locked in a tight battle with East Brunswick and Ridge, the throwers took over.
Southern picked up wins from junior Jaiden Brown in the shot put (55-4.50), and sophomore star Fabian Gonzalez in the discus with a state leading 183-0. That helped Southern take a 48-36 lead heading into the meet-concluding pole vault. Angel Santiago put the finishing touches on the team title for Southern by clearing 14-0 to place third in the PV to give Southern its winning total of 54 points. McSweeney won the PV for East Brunswick to give his team a second-place total of 46. Ridge finished third with 45.
In the girls Group 4 competition, Lauren Princz was her usual sizzling self for Egg Harbor. The Penn State-bound Princz won the 100 in 11.92, the 200 in a NJ#1 24.23, and anchored the winning relay that ran a NJ#1 47.79 to help lead her team to a 56-41 victory over runner-up Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
Princz, who has won two Meet of Champions titles in her career (55 dash in 2020 and 200 outdoor in 2018), has now captured nine State Group championships in the sprints. She will be favored to win the 100 and 200 at the Meet of Champions on Saturday.
Egg Harbor, second in SJ Group 4 behind Rancocas Valley, also received big points from Mariah Stephens, who won the triple jump, and Michaela Pomatto, second in the discus.
Now for some individual highlights.
We have to start off with Robinson, who didn't start his track and field career until two months ago.
Robinson, bidding to became just the sixth boy in state history to join the very exclusive "Quad Club," which consists of athletes who have won four individual events at a single State Group Championship meet, came agonizingly close to making state history when the Newark Tech senior swept all three jumping events, and finished second in the 110 hurdles.
The 6-5, 175-pound Robinson, who was the top seed in all four of his events, won the triple jump (a PR of 47-10.50) and the high jump (6-2) on Friday, and looked like he was headed for victory in the 110 hurdles on Saturday, but he clipped the final hurdle while in the lead and stumbled across the line in second place. Robinson, who ran 14.66 in the HH trials on Saturday, ran 15.19 in the final when he was edged by Jason Agyemang of North Plainfield, who ran 14.98.
Robinson came back later to win the long jump by soaring 23-3.75 to finish off his remarkable two-day performance with a whopping 38 points, just three points fewer than what team champion Rumson scored.
Demarest junior Casey Sullivan smashed the Group 2 shot put record and took over the state lead on Friday with a 45-5.50.
Katie Hamilton of Westfield picked up her third gold medal of the Group 4 meet by winning the 800 in 2:10.86, edging freshman Peyton Hollis of Columbia (2:11.91). The Duke-bound Hamilton won the 1,600 on Friday in a Union County record 4:51.47, and she anchored the winning 4x800. Will she run the 800 or the 1,600 at the Meet of Champions? Stay tuned!
Nick Medeiros of Old Bridge had a huge meet. He won the Group 4 400 on Friday with a PR of 48.33, and on Saturday he won the 800 in an NJ #1 and PR of 1:50.98, and anchored the runner-up 4x400 with a 48.41 carry.
Jada Ellis of Manchester Regional swept the Group 2 100 and 200, winning the 100 in Friday in 12.04, and the 200 Saturday in 24.87
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood girls and Elizabeth came into the meet as the state leaders in the 4x400, and both came away with impressive victories.
Scotch Plains, which leads the state with the 3:57 it ran at the Union County Championships. won the Group 4 girls 4x400 in 3:50.10 as junior Julia Jackson anchored in 56.57.
Elizabeth, which came in with a 3:18.52, lowered that to 3:18.50 as junior Greg McQueen blew apart the race with a 47.43 second leg. Despite running its best time of the season, Elizabeth fell out of the state's No. 1 spot and are are now tied for No. 2 with Deptford. Pennsauken took over the state lead by edging Delsea in the Group 3 race, 3:18.36 to 3:18.50.
I can't wait to see the fireworks in the boys 4x400 at the Meet of Champions when Pennsauken, Elizabeth and Deptford clash!
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