NJSIAA Group 1 & 4 State Championships Highlights

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Metuchen, one of the greatest programs in state history under legendary coach Marty Holleran, returned to the top, Jack Ahart and Hayden Singer were double winners, and Peyton Shute dropped a fast time to win the 3,200 at the State Group 1 meet.

Metuchen received big contributions from several athletes to outscore defending champion Dayton, 42-30, for its first championship since 1999 and its sixth overall.     

Junior Vedant Naik won the 55 hurdles for Metuchen in 7.73, and Metuchen's distance crew produced a flurry of points and PR's.

In the 800, senior Brandon Sinclair placed second in 1:59.78, and senior Juan Nicholas Hildago ran a 2 second PR of 2:02.26 to place third. Junior Alex Patelski dropped a three second PR and broke the school record by running 4:24.35 to finish third in the 1,600, and a he had a 7 second PR of 9:46.49 to finish fourth in the 3,200.

Metuchen put an exclamation point on its championship by placing third in the 4x400 relay.

Ahart, a senior at Kinnelon, continued his torrid season by winning his first two state titles. He won the 55 dash in 6.54, just off his PR of 6.50, and captured the 400 with a indoor PR of 49.88. Ahart has the Morris County 55 record of 6.46 set in 2018 by Justin Yazdi of Delbarton in his cross-hairs!    

Shute, a junior at Woodbury, was racing the clock in the 3,200 as he was chasing a time to ensure a spot in the seeded heat. He did way more than that by pounding out a PR of 9:14.51, the second fastest time in the state this season. Shute's previous best of 9:15.76 came at Cherokee last April.  

Singer, a senior at New Providence, captured his first state title by winning the 800 in a PR of 1:57.39, and anchored the winning 4x400 that ran 3:34.05.  

Group 1 State Champions

  • Team Metuchen HS
  • 55m Jack Ahart 12 Kinnelon HS 6.54
  • 400m Jack Ahart 12 Kinnelon HS 49.88
  • 800m Hayden Singer 12 New Providence HS 1:57.39
  • 1600m Colin Riley 12 Jonathan Dayton HS 4:19.79
  • 3200m Peyton Shute 11 Woodbury HS 9:14.51
  • 55mH Vedant Naik 11 Metuchen HS 7.93
  • 4x400m New Providence HS 3:34.05
  • High Jump Elijah Rowe 11 Manchester Reg. HS 6-00
  • Pole Vault Leo Davis 10 Audubon HS 13-00
  • Shot Put Luke Riordan 11 Hanover Park HS 48-08.75


After Clayton won its second straight State Group 1 outdoor titles last June with the amazing Sharpe triplets leading the way, there was lot of speculation about what would happen to the program when the talented trio graduated last spring.

Anyone who thought they'd fall off the map were dead wrong!! Clayton has answered the skeptics with its greatest indoor season ever!!!

The Clippers came up with their biggest win in indoor school history on Saturday night when senior Erica Thomas, junior Alanna Woolfolk, sophomore Leila Ortiz, and Kelsey Taylor, Erica's twin, combined to win the 4x400 in 4:13.41 to rally for a 41-38 victory over runner-up and  defending champion Metuchen. Metuchen, which led Clayton, 32-31, heading into the relay, placed third in 4:15.14.Woolfolk, a two-time indoor Meet of Champions winner in the high jump (one indoors and one outdoors), gave Clayton 10 points when she won the high jump event by clearing 5-6.

Clayton's other points came from Kelsey Thomas, third in the 400, Ortiz, fifth in the 400, sophomore Melina Johnson, fifth in the high jump at 5-0, and junior Maylisa Bluford, second in the shot with a 36.-8. 

Here are some more big highlights -

Emma Keating of Pompton Lakes, the Meet of Champions winner in the pole vault last June, won that event by clearing 11-6 and finished second in the 55 hurdles in 8.78. Keating, a senior, is the state leader in the pole vault at 12-6.

Ny'era Hand-Brooks, a senior at Burlington City, scored the most points in the competition by ringing up 26 of her teams 30 to propel Burlington City to a fourth-place finish.

Hand-Brooks started her day by placing second in the 400 in a personal-best 1:00.68. She also finished second in the dash in 7.44, and won the 55 hurdles for the second straight year in 8.66 after running a PR of 8.59 in the trials.

Metuchen's runner-up finish was sparked by senior Nelagh Matthews and sophomore Gianna Hernandez.

Matthews won the 55 dash in 7.43, and Hernandez produced 19 points with a strong distance triple. She won the 3,200 with an indoor PR of 11:44.12, placed second in the 1,600 with a PR of 5:23.06, and was sixth in the 800.

Shore Regional had a pair of champions on the track.

Rutgers-bound Megan Donlevie won the 1,600 in 5:15.67 to raise her career total to four State Group Championships. She has won two State XC titles, one outdoors last spring in the 1,600, and now one indoors.

Rising star Kiera Greene, a freshman at Shore, ran a PR of 2:21.00 to finish first in the 800.

Kylie Castillo, a junior at Ridgefield, continued her torrid rookie indoor season by winning the 400 in 58.99.

Group 1 State Champions

  • Team Clayton HS
  • 55m Nelagh Matthews 12 Metuchen HS 7.43
  • 400m Kylie Castillo 11 Ridgefield Memorial HS 58.99
  • 800m Kiera Greene 9 Shore Regional HS 2:21.00
  • 1600m Megan Donlevie 12 Shore Regional HS 5:15.67
  • 3200m Gianna Hernandez 10 Metuchen HS 11:44.12
  • 55mH Ny'era Hand-Brooks 12 Burlington City HS 8.66
  • 4x400m Clayton HS 4:13.41
  • High Jump Alanna Woolfolk 11 Clayton HS 5-06
  • Pole Vault Emma Keating 12 Pompton Lakes HS 11-06
  • Shot Put Elliot Eddy 11 Hasbrouck Heights HS 37-06.50



Westfield won a wild one over Union County rival Union to repeat as champion, Akshay Vadul of Edison hammered out a fast distance double, Gabriel Rodriguez was spectacular for Union, and Washington's Yashahya Brown burned a hot time in the hurdles in a meet loaded with great performances. 

Let's start with the thrilling finish.

Heading into the 4x400 relay, the final event, Westfield held a 32-24 lead over Union.

In order to overtake Westfield and win the title outright, Union had to win the race and have Westfield not place in the top six. Union could also earn a tie for title by placing second and having Westfield not place in the top six.

Westfield, which got a slow seed time because of a fall in the sectional race, had to run in the first of the four heats while Union was in the seeded heat. 

Westfield won its heat in 3:29.71 and then had to anxiously watch the remaining three heats to see if they did enough to score.

In the seeded heat, Union (3:29.28) was second behind Toms River North (3:24.85) to place second in the event to earn eight points. Westfield erupted in euphoria when they saw the live results of the race pop up on their phones, which showed it placed fifth for two points to edge Union, 34-32.

Westfield's relay team consisted of Emanuel Gayanilo (53.5), Ryan Daly (53.0), Jonathan Scalia (51.7), and Joe Pierro (51.2).

Joe Pierro, who didn't run the 4x400 at sectionals, was inserted back into the lineup and came through with a clutch anchor carry. 

All of Westfield's other points came in the distance races as multiple runners ran PR's!

Junior Avery Keith had a sensational double, finishing second in the 1,600 (a big PR of 4:15.87) and the 3,200 (9:20.77). In the 800, Scalia (1:57.67) and Liam Maurillo (a PR off 1:58.50) finished 3-4. Scalia, who got bumped to the back of the pack at the start, worked hard to move up and then exploded past three runners with about 100 meters to go to get third. Westfield's Tage Mehta (a PR of 4:17.19) and Ryan Daly (a PR of 4:18.73).

This team championship was especially sweet for Mehta and Pierro, who have battled through lots of injuries and adversity during their careers. These guys epitomize grit and resilience

Mehta, a junior, tore his ACL in May of 2021, and missed the entire XC and indoors seasons as a sophomore before coming back last spring and running 4:20. Pierro, a senior, only ran three races last winter because of a hamstring injury, and then he missed the entire outdoor season with a lumbar stress fracture in his back. What comeback by Mehta and Pierro!!!          

One of the top performers of the whole weekend was the Georgetown-bound Vadul.

Vadul won a pair of classic battles with Keith by running 4:14.15, which is NJ No. 4  in the 1,600, and 9:18.34 in the 3,200. Vadul's 4:14.15 was the fastest time of all the Group Championships meets combined. 

The Rutgers-bound Rodriguez, poured everything he had onto the track to try to lead Union to the team title. He won the 800 in 1:57.17, placed second in the 400, and then split 49.1 as the anchor in the 4x400!! Rodriguez is the state leader in the 800 with a 1:53.30.  

Brown, a junior at Washington, earned the top seed in the hurdles for the Meet of Champions by running 7.37, just off his PR of 7.36, which is US No. 5 this season. It should be one heckuva battle between Brown and Nate Rayan of Scotch Plains-Fanwood at the M of C. Rayan is US No. 2 with a 7.30.       

Junior Jason Meza of Morristown, the state leader in the 400 with a Morris County record 48.20, won the two-lapper in 49.78. Meza won the state Group 4 400 hurdle race last spring. 

Senior R.J Smith of Linden, competing indoors for the first time this season, made a PR of 6-6 to win the high jump.

Group 4 Champions

  • Team Westfield HS
  • 55m Cole Cramer 10 Southern Regional HS 6.50
  • 400m Jason Meza 11 Morristown HS 49.78
  • 800m Gabriel Rodriguez 12 Union HS 1:57.17
  • 1600m Akshay Vadul 12 Edison HS 4:14.15
  • 3200m Akshay Vadul 12 Edison HS 9:18.34
  • 55mH Yashahya Brown 11 Washington Twp HS 7.37
  • 4x400m Toms River North HS 3:24.85
  • High Jump Rabae Smith 12 Linden HS 6-06
  • Pole Vault Damian Scouloukas 12 Hunterdon Central HS 14-00
  • Shot Put Fabian Gonzalez 12 Southern Regional HS 57-00


Piscataway, behind star Brooke'Lyn Drakeford, broke through to win its first title, Jessica Oji launched a massive bomb in the shot put, and Emma Zawatski won two titles in a meet loaded with electrifying

Drakeford, the state leader in the 400 with a 56.51, had a hand in 30 of Piscataway's 36 points to spark the Chiefs to a six-point win over runner-up Eastern. The University of Virginia- Drakeford, who is headed to the University of Virginia, won the 400 in 57.28, the fastest time of all the Group Championships combined, placed second in the hurdles in a PR and NJ No. 7 time of 8.27, fourth in the dash in 7.34, and anchored the runner-up 4x400 relay. Drakeford, the Meet of Champions winner in the 400 hurdles last June, is favored to win the 400 at the M of C on Match 5 at Ocean Breeze.

Piscataway's remaining six points were scored by senior Enobong George, third in the 55 dash with a PR of 7.32.

The most earth-shattering moment of the entire weekend came when Oji, a sophomore at Livingston, sent the 8.8-pound shot put soaring 47-2.25 on her final throw of the trials!!! That's not only the No. 1 throw in the state this season, it's also No. 3 in the nation this season, No. 2 in state history for a sophomore, No. 6 in US history for a sophomore, and No. 12 in NJ history.

Alyssa Wilson of Donovan Catholic, the greatest thrower in state history, is the only girl in NJ history who has thrown further indoors as a sophomore than Oji. Wilson set the state sophomore record of 48-6.50 in 2015. In case your wondering, the national sophomore record is 51-5, set by Becky O'Brien of Greely High in Maine in 2008.

Oji, who previous best was the 43-4.50 she threw to win the North Jersey, Section 1 title, has come a long way since throwing a season-best of 41-7 last spring. The reason? She started spinning this season, and she has become more and more comfortable with the new technique.

Zawatski, the state leader in both the 800 (2:13.12) and the mile (4:48.71) won both of those races with times of 2:16.92 and 4:50.26. The 4:50.26 represents the top time from all the group meets.

Zawatski, who has won Meet of Champions titles in the 1,600 last spring and in cross-country this past fall, will be favored to add an indoor M of C title to her resume in whichever race she chooses.

Julia Scrudato of Montgomery, Quaycian Davis of East Orange, Samantha Strydesky of Howell, and Cynthia Boakye of Elizabeth, also provided big highlights.

Scrudato, a junior, placed second in the 1,600 with an indoor PR in 4:54.89, and came back to win her first state title by running 10:49.02.

Davis, a senior, ran a PR of 8.07 to win the hurdles and move up to No. 3 in the state rankings this season.

Strydesky, who won the high jump at the Meet of Champions as a junior last spring, cleared 5-6 to win her second straight HJ title.

Boakye, a senior, smashed Elizabeth's school record by dropping her PR all the way down to 7.16 to win the 55 dash, the No. 6 time in the state this season. Her previous best was 7.26.   

Group 4 Champions

  • Team Piscataway Twp HS
  • 55m Cynthia Boakye 12 Elizabeth HS 7.16
  • 400m Brooke'Lyn Drakeford 12 Piscataway Twp HS 57.28
  • 800m Emma Zawatski 11 Freehold Township HS 2:16.92
  • 1600m Emma Zawatski 11 Freehold Township HS 4:50.26
  • 3200m Julia Scrudato 11 Montgomery HS 10:49.02
  • 55mH Quaycian Davis 12 East Orange Campus 8.07
  • 4x400m Eastern Regional HS 4:00.61
  • High Jump Samantha Strydesky 12 Howell HS 5-06
  • Pole Vault Ella Karolewski 11 Hillsborough HS 11-00
  • Shot Put Jessica Oji 10 Livingston HS 47-02.25