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While depth and balance are big factors in determining the team champs at the sectional level, more often than not you need to have star power to win State Group Championships in track and field.
That was evident once again on Saturday when some of the state's biggest stars rose to the occasion to carry their teams to titles at the NJSIAA Groups 2-3 Championships on Saturday at the Bennett Center in Toms River.
In the girls Group 3 competition, Julia Jackson, the Meet of Champions winner in the 400 last spring, finished first in two races, broke a meet record, and anchored the winning relay to fuel the Scotch Plains-Fanwood girls to their first state indoor title ever, 53-28 over runner-up Colts Neck. SPF, which finished second last week to North Hunterdon in North Jersey, Sec. 2, received all of its points from four athletes. But that's all you need when you have that star power! More on that later. West Windsor-Plainsboro North is another team that relied on its studs, Nikhil Makker and Baloyi Malwandla, who each won two events to combine for 40 points to spark the Knights to a 57-49 victory over runner-up Pennsauken for the boys Group 3 championship. This is the third title for WWPN, who also won in 2009 and 2018.
Makker won the 1,600 in 4:17.19 and the 3,200 in 9:23.47, which are both PR's. Malwandla cleared 12-6 to win the pole vault, made 6-4 to finish first in the high jump, and ran on the runner-up 4x400.
Another example of that star power occurred in Group 2 where All-Stater Christina Allen won the 800 (2:17.27) and 1,600 in 5:04.54 to score 20 of River Dell's 29 points as the Hawks edged co-runners-up Haddonfield and Rumson, 29-26. River Dell only needed points from three athletes to win its second title. River Dell won its first championship in 2016. In the boys Group 2 competition, the Delsea boys used a remarkable 1-2-3 finish in the shot put, a huge victory from Andrew Littlehales, and received PR's from all six of their scoring athletes en route to a 44-36 over Hamilton North to capture the Group 2 title. Delsea, like the Scotch Plains-Fanwood girls, placed second at the sectional championships, but because of its firepower the Crusaders won their fourth state championship.
DELSEA'S PR PARADE
The biggest reason why Delsea was able to repeat as champion and win its fourth title (it also won in 2011, 2018, 2020) was because of that amazing shot put sweep!!! Jason Nwosu unloaded of PR of 62-0.50, which is No. 2 in NJ and No. 9 in the US this season. Josh Caudill was second with a big PR of 54-5.75, and Greg Masso was third with a 51-7.50, also a massive PR
Littlehales, a junior, joined the Delsea PR parade by winning the 3,200 in a Gloucester County record 9:13.20, and Jaedyn Stewart (third in 6.65) and Ziyan Smith (fourth in 6.66) PR'd in the 55 dash to round out Delsea's scoring.
As mentioned earlier, it only took four girls to score all 53 points for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood girls on their march to the Group 3 championship.
The Duke-bound Jackson was the catalyst for the Raiders.
In the opening event of the meet, Jackson led a 1-2-3 finish for SPF in the 400 with a meet record 56.42, breaking the mark of 56.45 set in 1986 by Giselle Harris of Shabazz. Jackson also tied for first in the 55 dash (yes, a tie was really determined in this day and age) with a PR of 7.20, tied for No. 3 in the state this season, and anchored the winning 4x400 relay. that ran 4:00.47.
Grace Kennedy was second in the 400 (57.99) and third in the 800 (2:20.75) for SPF. Jenai Berry placed third in the 400 (58.70) and fourth in the 800 (2:21.28), and Kennedy and Berry joined Jackson and Danielle Most on the 4x400.
PEREZ ROCKS THE 3200
Angelina Perez of Lakeland blasted one of the greatest performances in state history in the Group 2 3,200, dropping a meet record 10:21.29, which is No. 5 in state indoor history, and No. 5 in the nation this season. The University of Florida-bound Perez smashed the overall meet record (All Groups combined) of 10:30.25 set in 2006 by Brittany Sedberry of
Speaking of stars, Shamali Whittle of Hamilton North lit up the track!!!
The Georgia-bound Whittle won the Group 3 55 dash in a meet record 6.36, which is just off his state leading 6.33, finished first in the 400 in a meet record 49.17, and also captured the hurdles in 7.56.
Bryce Tucker was his scintillating-self for Pennsauken.
For the second straight week, Tucker won four gold medals. The junior captured the 400 in 49.89, the hurdles in 7.72, the 800 in 1:58.11, and ran on the winning 4x400 that ran 3:27.99.