Top Storylines To Follow At the NJSIAA Meet of Champions

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The track events will be streamed LIVE from the Meet of Champions on Saturday. Select field events will be recorded and uploaded along with race replays to the meet page.

It's time to get your Meet of Champions on!

While we all know about the scheduling conflict with the multiple national meets this weekend, which will result in many big stars being absent from the M of C, but there are still plenty of can't miss matchups, riveting rematches, and the potential for some historic performances that will make Saturday's 53rd meet at Franklin High School another memorable meet.

We are going to try to keep the focus of this preview on who is competing, so if you are looking for a rundown on which meet or meets many of the top athletes will be competing at this weekend, please go here

Ok, let's get you all jacked up for the meet by pumping some NJ T&F numbers and facts into your veins as we take a look at the top storylines to keep an eye on.





The indefatigable Perez, who ran a state record 9:53.29 in the 3,200 at the Group 2 meet last Friday, is planning to try to pull off the "Devin Double!''

I know all you track nuts remember when Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Boro ran the two-mile at the 2019 Brooks PR meet in Seattle on a Friday and then flew back to NJ the next day to win the 3200m at the M of C!!! Hart went sub nine in both races!!!

Perez, minus the cross-country jet lag issues that Hart had to deal with, will also attempt a two-mile/3200m double on back-to-back days. She's racing the two-mile at New Balance on Friday at approx. 8:28 p.m. in Philadelphia, and will run the 3200m the next day at the M of C.

Perez, seeking the distance running Triple Crown (Meet of Champions titles in all three seasons), seems like a virtual lock to take down the meet record of 10:15.02 in 2013 by Sarah DiSanza of High Point and win her first outdoor M of C title.

Can anyone challenge Perez?

If Perez is feeling the effects from the NB race and isn't sharp, then maybe someone can challenge her. If  Molly Malague of Metuchen, second to Perez in the Group 2 in a NJ No. 9 all-time 10:16.46, runs the 3,200 she would be the best bet to hang with Perez. But it appears that Malague is leaning toward running the 1,600.       


Kyle Rakitis of Kingsway is favored to become just the fifth boy to win the 1,600 two straight years. The University of Virginia-bound Rakitis, who won the title last year in 4:08.58, captured his second straight Group 4 title last week in 4:09.12. Rakitis, who has a shot at the meet record of 4:07.31 that was set in 2012 by Chris Marco of Toms River South, is also entered in the mile on Sunday at the NB Nationals.

We haven't forgotten about junior Collin Boler of Delbarton, who ran 4:09.60 to win the Non-Public A title. Boler is running the mile at the NB Nationals on Sunday, and the word is he's leaning toward the 800 at the M of C.     


The defending champions in the boys hurdles, Chris Serrao of East Brunswick (high hurdles), and Bryce Tucker of Pennsauken (400 intermediate hurdles) will be very busy this weekend.

The Rutgers-bound Serrao is planning on running four races over three days in two states. He's running the 400m hurdles at the NB Nationals on Friday, and then defend his title in the 110 hurdles and run the 4x100 relay at the Meet of Champions, and then return to Philly and run the 4x400 with teammates.

Serrao leads the state with a 13.77 in the HH, and he and his teammates have run a NJ No. 1 times in both the 4x100 (41.49), and 4x400 (3:15.65). East Brunswick could take down the meet record in the 4x100 of 41.45 set by Timber Creek in 2014.

Tucker, who won the 400 hurdles as a sophomore at the M of C last year, will also running the 400 hurdles at the NB Nationals, and will compete in the 110 hurdles at the M of C, and may also defend his IH title.     


Freshman phenom Benjamin Shue of Bergen Catholic  has a great chance to become just the fourth person in meet history to reach 200 feet in the discus.

Shue, who improved his national freshman record to 198-5 when he finished first at the Non-Public A Championships, will square off with defending campion Fabian Gonzalez of Southern, whois NJ No. 2 with a 189-9.   

While 200 is a big goal for Shue, the biggest target that the 6-2, 245-pound lefty has in his sights is the national record for a 16-year-old, which is 210-1 set by Jeff Buckey of Bakersfield, Calif. in 1991. In case you are wondering, the NJ record is 218-4, set by 2020 U.S. Olympian Sam Mattis of East Brunswick in 2012.


Only one runner (boy or girl) has ever won Meet of Champions titles in the 800 and 3,200, but Christina Allen of River Dell is in position to become the second.

Allen, who won the 3,200 at the M of C last June in dramatic fashion with a dive across the line, is expected to run the 800 this year. Allen won the Group 2 800 with a PR of 2:12.19. Also keep an eye out for Group 4 800/3200 champ Nicole Clifford of Cherokee, who is running the 4x800 and may jump in this race as well.  

If Allen wins the 800, she'd join the great Jodie Bilotta of North Hunterdon as the only runners in meet history to win the 800 and 3,200. Bilotta pulled off one of the most amazing performances in state history when she won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the 1988 M of C. That's right, she swept all three races on the same day! How awesome is that!!!   

SUB 1:50

Only eight runners have gone sub 1:50 in the 800 meet history, but we could see the list grow with junior Gabriel Rodriguez of Union and Collin Boler of Delbarton likely to square off. Rodriguez has run a state leading 1:50.82, and Boler is coming off a runner-up finish in the Non-Public A race in 1:51.10. Someone will have to take it out fast to have a shot at going under 1:50, but it could happen.      


A few decades ago, Montclair was home to one of the greatest collections of sprinters in state history as twins Mikele and MeLisa Barber and Aleah Williams torched the track by combining for seven individual titles in the 100, 200, and 400 at the outdoor Meet of Champions between 1997-99.         

Ever since then, the Mounties haven't had an outdoor M of C winner, but senior Kiya Lawson has the talent and the drive to end that drought and bring a title back to Montclair. Lawson took over the state lead in the 200 with a huge win in Group 4 with a time of 24.09.



A lot of firepower will step into the shot put circles, led by defending champions Joe Licata of Gill St. Bernard's, and Casey Sullivan of Demarest. And that should lead to some big bombs being launched.

On the boys side, there are four throwers over 60 feet, while the girls shot features nine girls who have topped 40 feet this season.

Jason Nwosu of Delsea took over the state lead when he won the Group 3 title with a throw of 63-2.50. Licata is right behind him this season with a 63-0, but he does own a PR 64-9.75 that he threw to place third at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March. They are followed by Fabian Santiago of Southern (61-7.50) and Bergen Catholic's Benjamin Shue (6

In the girls competition, Sullivan has thrown nearly three feet further than anyone in the state, a 45-8 at the Bergen County Championship. But she must be on her game to beat a deep and talented field that includes Kelly Enterline of Southern (42-9.50), indoor M of C winner Madison Stevens of Columbia (42-7), and Livingston freshman Jessica Oji, who surprised herself and everyone else by winning the Group 4 title with a 41-5.    


While there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding several events at this meet, one thing that seems like a sure thing is that someone from the Shore Conference will win the boys javelin, either Robert Paneque of Jackson or Tyler Zawatski of Freehold Township. 

Paneque took over the state lead last week when he unloaded a Shore Conference record 208-6 to knock off defending champion Zawatski to win the Group 4 title. Zawatski, who won the Meet of Champions last year, is ranked No. 2 in the state with a 197-7.

There is a good chance that Paneque and Zawatski will both go beyond 200 in a classic battle for the title. 


There will be a lot of high-flying aerial excitement when three pole vaulters who have made at last 15-6 this season will clash in the boys competition.

This great field is led by the O'Sullivan brothers, senior to Kevin and junior Brian. Kevin took over the state lead when he cleared 16-0 to finish first and equal the Group 4 meet record. Brian, who was second at the Group 4 meet by making 15-6, cleared a PR of 16-0.25 to win the indoor Meet of Champions.  

Max Zuckerman of Pascack Hills has gone 15-6 multiple times this season, most recently when defeated Connor Munson of Westwood in a jump-off to win the Group 2 Championship.

With this much talent battling over the bar, there is a chance that more than one vaulter could clear 16-0 for the first time in meet history. In fact, there have only been three vaulters who have ever made 16-0 in meet history. Will Nesbitt of Millburn made 16-4 in 1980, which stood as the meet record until Brian McSweeney of East Brunswick cleared 16-4.75 to break it last year. Andrew Ghizzone of Union Catholic made 16-0 to win the title in 2014. 


It's hard to believe with Haddonfield's rich tradition of distance running greatness that a boy from the Camden County powerhouse has never won a title at the outdoor Meet of Champions.   

But there is a good chance that will change when Haddonfield teammates Seth Clevenger and George Andrus run the 3,200. Clevenger, the Group 2 1,600 and 3,200 champ, is the favorite based on his NJ No. 4 9:03.15 this season, which is the fastest of all the runners in the field. Andrus ran 9:09.38 when he was second in Group 2, so it could be a 1-2 for the Dawgs.        


With so many of the top ranked 400 runners running at NB Nationals instead of the Meet of Champions, including defending champion Julia Jackson of Scotch Plains-Fanwood, the No. 1 ranked girl in the state, and Cashieve Blair of Irvington, the No. 1 ranked boy in the state, both one-lap races really are a coin flip.

On the girls side, the top three ranked runners in the state won't be racing, so that leaves Christiana Nwachuku of Kent Place (55.09) and Howell's Laura Gugliotta (55.17) as the only two runners who have run under 56 this season.

But Nwachuku, who won the 100, 200, and 400 at the State Non-Public A meet, has a lot of options and may not run the 400. Odds are she will pick two races to run, and you can bet she'll be in the 100 where she owns the state's fastest time of 11.70, the Union County record.

The boys 400 is even more wide open as the top four ranked quarter milers in the state will be racing at NB Nationals. That leaves junior Premier Wynn of Pennsauken, the Group 3 champ n 47.86, as the only runner in the race who has broke 48 this season.

But watch out for Ocean Township junior Alexander Sadikov, and Joshua Babe of Morris Hills. Sadikov won the Group 2 400 in 48.15, but he ran 47.85 when he placed second at the Nike Indoor Nationals in March. Babe, second to Wynn in Group 3 in 48.32, was second at the M of C last June in 48.18.   


There has never a girls javelin competition in meet history where two competitors have thrown over 150 feet. But that could change when defending champion Niki Woods of Demarest and Millville junior Leah Howard square off.

The University of Princeton-bound Woods, who won the Group 2 title last week, leads the state this season with a 149-11, and Howard is NJ No. 2 with the 149-2 that she uncorked to capture the Group 4 championships.    


Rutgers-bound Celine-Jada Brown of Plainfield, who owns a personal best of 19-11.50 in the long jump and won the Group 4 title with a 19-9, will be attempting to become just the third girl in meet history and fifth in state outdoor history to soar 20 feet.

The only two jumpers who have ever gone 20 feet at the Meet of Champs are Olympians Carol Lewis of Willingboro and Keturah Orji of Mount Olive. Lewis, the only 4-time winner of the event, went 20-11 (wind-aided) in 1980, and 20-7.50 in 1981. Orji, a three-time champ who hit 20-2.25 in 2014, is the current American record holder in the triple jump.        


Junior Lauren Cashman of Montgomery will be attempting to become just the second girl to win back-to-back pole vault titles. Danielle O'Reilly of Shawnee (2003-04) is the only girl to repeat as champion. Cashman, the Group 4 champion, has made a NJ No. 2 12-1 this season.