NJ Stars Shine At U.S. Nationals And On Collegiate Level


What a weekend for New Jersey track and field!!!

While the NJ High School State Group Championships were being held over the weekend at the Bennett Center in Toms River, several former NJ high school stars produced electrifying performances on the West Coast at the U.S. National Championships, and many Garden State alums made their presence felt on the collegiate level with memorable performances at Conference Championships.

The biggest highlights came from the U.S. National Championships at The Podium in Spokane, Wash., where two NJ athletes captured titles and a total of five athletes from the Garden State qualified for the U.S. Team that will compete at the World Indoor Championships next month in Belgrade, Serbia March 13-.

The top two finishers in each event qualified for the World Indoor Championships, which will take place March 18-20 at ┼átark Arena in Belgrade, Serbia.

Ajee' Wilson and Olivia Baker, friendly rivals during their high school days, went 1-2 in the 800 to secure spots on the US Team. It was the sixth straight national indoor title for Wilson, who ran 2:01.72, and the 12th national title of her career (indoors and outdoors combined). Wilson, a two-time Olympian, graduated from Neptune in 2012.

Baker, who starred at Columbia High (Class of 2014), finished second in 2:02.14. Baker was in sixth place with 400 to go, but used a 59.96 final 400 to rally for the runner-up spot!

Athing Mu, a 2020 graduate of Trenton High who broke Wilson's American record when she won the Olympic gold in the 800 last summer, opted not to compete.  

Keturah Orji (Mount Olive-Class of 2014) continued her dominance in the triple jump. Orji, the American record holder in the event and two-time Olympian, successfully defended her title with a mark of 46-10.25. Orji, making her season debut, won by nearly two feet over runner-up Torie Franklin. 


Josette Norris (Tenafly High-Class of 2014)  made her first U.S. Team by the slimmest of margins in a wild three-way finish. Norris finished second in 4:06.13, just behind Heather MacLean (4:06.09), and an eyelash ahead of 2021 US Olympic Trials champion Elle Purrier St. Pierre (4:06.14). Norris was eighth in the 5,000 at the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer. 

Josh Awotunde (Delsea High-Class of 2013) also made his first U.S. team by unloading a bomb of 71-4 on his second attempt to place second in the shot put. Awotunde, who now owns the fourth best throw in the world this year, missed making the Olympic team by three inches last summer when he was fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trrials.

Awotunde finished behind Ryan Crouser, the world record holder and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Crouser won with a 73-10.25, the top throw in the world this year.

BEAST IN THE EAST

Villanova's Sean Dolan (Hopewell Valley-Class of 2019), smashed the meet and school records when he won the 800 at the Big East Championships in 1:47.53 at the Track & Field Center at Gately Park in Chicago. Both records Dolan broke were held by New Jersey stars.

Dolan, a redshirt sophomore, broke the previous BIG EAST Championships meet record of 1:47.59, which was set by Joseph White of Georgetown (DePaul High School) six years ago, and eclipsed the Wildcats previous indoor standard of 1:47.84, which John Marshall, who starred at Plainfield High, set on February 12, 1982 at the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.

Dolan's 1:47.53 places him 14th on the NCAA Division I Indoor list. The top 16 declared athletes in each individual event will be selected for the NCAA Championships next month. Dolan is also No. on the NCAA list in the mile (3:56.39). 

 "It was good," Dolan said of how the race went. "I wanted to control it from the front. Now that I look back it was a hard second half of it and then it just kind of went to plan. I had great guys behind me the whole way. It was a fun race in a good environment. I am lucky to have had such a great support group behind me since I was a really young age. From my coaches and teammates to my parents, high school coaches and high school teammates, they push me every day to achieve my goals, realize nothing is impossible and do the things I love to do."

BOMBS AWAY

Alyssa Wilson of Texas State, who graduated from Donovan Catholic in 2016 and came to Texas State after graduating  from UCLA in December, finished sixth in the weight throw at the U.S. National Championships with a season best 73-9.

Last weekend, Wilson smashed a pair of records in the throws at the Sun Belt Conference Championships in Birmingham, Alabama. Wilson, the NJ state record high school holder in the shot put and discus, broke the conference marks in the shot put (16.15m) and weight throw (21.65m). She finished tied with Coastal Carolina's Melissa Jefferson for the third-most points by a female student-athlete. Wilson's 20-point total, though, was the most by any female field event athlete.

Jordan West of Tennessee (Rahway High) also smashed a school record in the shot put when he became the first thrower in Tennessee history to throw over 20 meters when he placed second with a 65-10.75 (20.07 meters) at the SEC Championships.  




SEVEN IN A ROW

The Princeton University men extended their winning streak to seven straight titles at the Ivy League Championships at the NY Armory. CJ Licata (Gill St. Bernard's) helped the Tigers capture its 23rd Ivy League crown overall by repeating as shot put champion with a throw of 63-1.25.

Read the full Princeton recap here 

BIG JUMPS IN THE BIG TEN

New Jersey athletes made their presence felt in a big way in the jumping events at the Big Ten Championships at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.  

Jenna Rogers of Nebraska, a sophomore out of Rutherford High, cleared 5-11.25. to win the girls high jump, and A'nan Bridgett of Rutgers (West Windsor-Plainsboro South High) won the long jump on his second attempt, posting a jump of 25-9.5o to give Rutgers its second championship in the event.

Bridget joined current Rutgers assistant coach and All-American Corey Crawford as conference LJ champs. And for the third time this season, Bridgett tied the school record in the 60-meter, running a time of 6.79 in the preliminaries.

Read the full Rutgers recap here