Sparks were flying all over the track as Union County's best flexed their firepower by taking down three meets records and producing multiple NJ No. 1 times with some of the fastest times in NJ history when the Union County Championships concluded with a bang on Wednesday at the Milt Campbell Track and Field Complex at Hub Stine Field in Plainfield.
In the team competition, it was all Union Catholic as the Vikings continued their dominance by once again steamrolling its way to another sweep of the titles. It's the eighth straight title for the UC girls while the UC boys have now captured three in a row.
The second and final day of this meet was so electrifying that the fireworks started before any finals were even run, and two of the three records that were shattered on Wednesday were held by two of the greatest track and field athletes that the world has ever seen!!! I'm serious!!! Keep reading and you will see!
RED HOT HURDLES
I never thought I'd see the day when records held by the legendary duo of Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic and Renaldo "Skeets'' Nehemiah of Scotch Plains-Fanwood would go down on the same day!!!
But that's what happened.
In the first event of the day, sophomore sensation Taylor Cox of Union Catholic broke her second meet record by blasting a 13.56 to take down the meet record of 13.79 that McLaughlin set as a freshman in 2014. In case you didn't already know, McLaughlin holds the world record in the 400 hurdles and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Cox's 13.56 is tied for No. 6 in NJ history and is the fastest time ever run by a sophomore in state history.
Cox, who ran a meet record and NJ No. 1 time of 11.80 in the 100 dash on Tuesday, went on to win her second straight 100 HH title when she ran 14.06 in the final.
Nate Rayan of Scotch Plains-Fanwood then took center stage in the hurdles by knocking Nehemiah out of the record book (if you count converted times) when the Clemson-bound star stormed his way to a 13.46, tied for No. 3 all-time in NJ history and No. 5 in the nation this season, to win the boys 110 hurdles! Rayan did that despite clipping the last hurdle and stumbling to the line. There is little doubt that the mishap over the 10th barrier cost Rayan at least a tenth of second and possibly as much a .2.
The only two hurdlers in state history go faster than Rayan in the high hurdles are Nehemiah (12.9 in 1977, which converts to a 13.14 auto time), and Danyne Brown of Camden (13.43 in 1999). Rayan is now tied with Cory Poole of East Orange Campus (13.46 in 2017) for NJ No. 3 all-time.
As for the meet record, Nehemiah ran a 13.3 hand time in 1977. The conversion calls for .24 to be added to a hand time in the high hurdles, putting Nehemiah's converted time at 13.54.
For all you who are new to the sport or just don't now the history, Nehemiah was the first to ever break 13.00 in the 110 HH, and he held the world record in the 110 hurdles for 10 years!
It was a dream come true for Rayan to break a record held by Nehemiah. Rayan has walked past Nehemiah's Hall of Fame plaque in the hallway at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High every day since his freshman year and has all of Nehemiah's times and records memorized.
GREATEST 3,200 IN UNION COUNTY HISTORY
There have several great battles in the 3,200 in Union County over the years, but nothing comes close to what Jimmy Wischusen of Union Catholic and Lucas Reguinho of Elizabeth did on Wednesday.
All the pre-race hype was about how the meet record of 9:07.99 that Wischusen set last year would be toast!
It sure was!!! Their was simply too much talent in this race for the record to not go down.
Wischusen, who won the 1,600 on Tuesday and captured the 3,200 at the Indoor Meet of Champions in March, and Reguinho really cranked it up after Wischusen ran 4:38.47 for the first 1,600. Wischusen continued to lead until the start of the bell lap when Reguinho jumped to the front.
But Wischusen, a junior, was unfazed by Reguinho's bold move and slammed on the gas with 300 to go on his way to a 63.9 final 400, stopping the clock with a new meet record of 9:01.05!! That brought the final tally to four meets records shattered at the 2-day meet.
Reguinho was second in a school record 9:03.48, also well under the previous meet record. I can't think of any county race in the state that's ever produced two sub 9:04 times in the 3,200!!!
The times by Wischusen, who set the Union County record when he ran 8:56.41 for 2-miles at the New Balance Nationals last year, and the Louisville-bound Reguinho are the No. 2 and No. 3 times in the state this season. Reguinho's 9:03.48 also makes him No. 3 all-time in Union County history.
This race was deep with talent.
Micah Lawson of Rahway, who won Meet of Champions titles in XC last fall and indoors in the 1,600, was third in 9:11.07, and Westfield junior Avery Keith was fourth in 9:17.82!
It's hard to believe that 9:17.82 only gets you fourth, but that's how loaded Union County is!! Any other year except last year and this year, sub 9:20 would have bene fastest enough to win this race.
Lindsay Hausman of Kent Place cemented her legacy as one of the most dominant distance runners to ever come through Union County with another victory in the 3,200.
The Duke-bound Hausman made a strong surge on the fifth lap to break away from Kaleigh Gunsiorowski of Union Catholic on her way to capturing her third straight 3,200 title in 10:34.21. The victory, which avenged Hausman's runner-up finish to Gunsiorowski in the 1,600 on Tuesday. Gunsiorowski, running her first ever 3,200, was second in 10:57.51.
Hausman's 3,200 title gave her an astounding career total of eight county championships!!! As a sophomore in 2021, she won the 3,200 indoors, and the 1,600 and 3,200 outdoors. Last year, she captured the 1,600 and 3,200 indoors and the 3,200 outdoors, and this year she won the 3,200 indoors and outdoors! Like I wrote earlier, Hausman certainly left an indelible mark as one of the best distance runners in county history.
On the boys side, UC, led by double winners Wischusen and sophomore star Noah Cooper defeated runner-up Westfield, 115-87.
The day after winning his second straight long jump title on Tuesday with a 21-11.75, Cooper completed the horizontal sweep by flying out to a big PR of 44-4.50 to win the triple jump on Wednesday. UC also picked up a win from senior Javon McKay, who won the 100 in a PR of 10.96. McKay also placed third in the 200 on Wednesday with a 22.17.
THIRD GOLD FOR SMITH
RJ Smith of Linden, who won the high jump at 6-4 and the 400 in 49.03 on Tuesday, grabbed his third gold of , whothe meet when he split 48.4 on the anchor leg to bring Linden across first in the boys 4x400 in 3;19.11, which is No. 4 in the state this season. Smith has committed to a college yet. Hey college coaches, someone is going to get an absolute stud!
LOOK OUT FOR ELIZABETH
One of the biggest takeaways from the two day meet was how much firepower the Elizabeth girls have!!
The Minutemen finished a very strong second to Union Catholic in the final team standings and showed they have the star power that's needed to make a run at winning the State Group 4 title in a couple weeks.
Seniors Cynthia Boakye (16 points), Maisha Valme (27 points), and Linya Gedeon (22 points) combined for 65 of Elizabeth's 94 points!!!
The Rutgers-bound Boakye, who ran a NJ No. 1 time in the 400 last week at the Union County Conference Championships, struck again by burning a 23.98 to win the 200 and take over the state lead in the half-lapper. Boakye, who ran a 55.55 in the quarter at the conference meet, also placed third in the 100 dash.
Valme cleared a personal best 5-2 to win the high jump, soared a personal best 38-3 (No. 6 in the state this season) to place second in the triple jump, went a personal best 18-7.75 (No. 7 in the state this season) to finish second in the long jump, and she ran 15.61 (15.19 in the trials) to finish sixth in the 100 hurdles.
Gedeon was second in the 100 with an NJ No. 3 time of 11.98, second in the 200 in an NJ No. 4 time of 24.66, and third in the 100 hurdles in 14.49. All three times were PR's!!
Don't be surprised if Elizabeth is hoisting the Group 4 trophy a Franklin High on June 10.
Senior Gabriel Rodriguez of Union, who has been so close to winning a county title in the past, and Joe Pierro, a senior at Westfield who has battled through multiple injuries in his career, both captured their first county championships in their final tries. The Rutgers-bound Rodriguez went wire-to-wire to win the 800 in 1:53.19, and Pierro ran 21.98 to win the 200 dash.
Saniyah Evans of Rahway and Maisha Valme of Elizabeth staged one of the best long jump battles in meet history.
Evans, a junior, was trailing Valme for most of the competition, but soared out to an 18-9.50 to snatch the victory away. Valme, a senior, finished second with an 18-7.75. Those are PR's for Evans and Valme, and put them No. 5 and No. 7 in the this season.