Here we go!!!! GET UR NEW LOOK GROUP CHAMPIONSHIPS ON!!
The NJSIAA Group Championships have arrived with a whole new format that no one saw coming!!!
To refresh your memory, the Groups 1-4 and Non-Public A Championships are at Franklin High and the Groups 2-3 and Non-Public B Championships are at Delsea High. Both meets have been switched to a one-day format on Saturday at 9:30 a.m.-more to come about that.
The top two finishers in each event in each Group plus 18 total wild cards from the two sites combined will advance to the Meet of Champions this Wednesday at Franklin High.
As always, NJ MileSplit will have you covered with lots of videos, stories, and photos from the the two sites on Friday.
I know all you track and field nuts are looking for something to whet your appetite as you get ready to follow all the action. So we've done some digging and have come up with some of the biggest storylines to follow, along with predictions for all 12 teams champions!
Good luck, everyone! Get your PR's on!!! What do you say we dive right into this!!
ON YOUR MARK! SET! BANG!
I don't think there is any doubt what the No. 1 storyline is!
We can probably all agree that the Group Championships switching from 2-day meets to one-day meets due to the poor air quality produced by the wildfires in Canada, is the hottest topic in the NJ T&F Community this entire season.
While the smoke has finally cleared, there is now a cloud of uncertainty hanging over these championships because of the changes.
There are so many questions.
How many events and which events will several athletes compete in as coaches scramble to adjust their lineups?
We all know that competing in four events or tripling is commonplace over a 2-day meet, but 4 events in one day or even three is obviously much more challenging. How many will even try that now?
How much impact will the one-day format and revised order of events have on the team scoring?
Which teams will be affected the most? While the changes are the same for everyone, it will no doubt affect some teams more than others.
How long will the meet last? Estimates range from anywhere from 11 to 12 hours, so pack lunch, dinner and a maybe even a pillow.
Which teams will adjust the best and be crowned state champs?
When the NJSIAA announced on Thursday that the Group Championships would be held as single-day meets on Saturday with a revised order of events, it completely changed the dynamics of these meets.
If you are wondering if this has ever happened before, the answer is yes. From 1919 (the first year ever for the Group Championships) through 1983, the State Group Championships were held on one day. But as far as having the entire format change the day before the meet was scheduled to begin, this is uncharted territory.
Although the smoke in the air has subsided, there could be plenty of smoke coming off the track in the girls Group 4 sprints when Cynthia Boakye of Elizabeth, Sianni Wynn of Pennsauken, and Piscataway's Brooke'Lyn Drakeford square off.
Because of the scheduling change, it's not certain which races they will meet, but they will eventually collide in at least one of the sprints and Boakye and Wynn could clash in the 100, 200 and 400.
Boakye, who is headed to Rutgers, is the state leader in the 100 (11.78), and the 200 (23.98), and is NJ No. 2 in the 400 (54.79). You can guarantee she will be on the track a lot because her team is chasing its first state title ever.
Wynn, a freshman phenom who won the 55 and 200 at the indoor Meet of Champions, ran a NJ No. 1 time of 54.01 at the South Jersey Sectional Championships, which is No. 3 in NJ history for a freshman.
Only Olympic gold medalists Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic (53.78 in 2014) and English Gardner of Eastern (54.00 in 2010) ran faster as a freshman than Wynn. Wynn has also run 11.90 in the 100 and 24.58 in the 200, which are both NJ. No. 4 this season.
The University of Virginia--bound Drakeford, who won the 400 at the indoor M of C in March and the 400 hurdles at the M of C last June, has run a NJ No. 3 time of 24.53 in the 200 this season. She was second in the 200 to Boakye in NJ, Sec. 2 last wee, 24.11 to 24.93. Drakeford, who didn't run the 400 at sectionals, is also one of the favorites in the 400 hurdles.
CLASH OF TITANS
CBA, Seton Hall Prep, and Union Catholic, arguably the three best teams in the state, will battle it out for Non-Public A supremacy.
Seton Hall Prep, the Non-Public A Champions this past indoor season, is seeking its first title since 2007. The Pirates have two of the state's biggest stars in seniors Xavier Donaldson (sprints) and Ryan Matulonis (hurdles, sprints/800), but will need to have a strong day in the field to capture the crown.
CBA, seeking to regain its title and extend its state record to 25 state outdoor championships, is loaded in the distances and the field events and is the favorite on paper.
Union Catholic, the defending champion, has a balanced and deep squad on the track and a lots of firepower in the jumps and vault.
There is a strong possibility that as many as four girls teams will successfully defend their titles.
Union Catholic is the biggest favorite among all the teams (boys and girls) as the Vikings should roll to a meet record-tying eight straight Non-Public a Championship. A victory would give UC a share of the meet record with Notre Dame, who won 8 in a row from 1993-2000.
UC s favored to win eight of the 18 events, including all three relays. The Vikings are led by sophomore star Taylor Cox, who is the state leader in the 100 hurdles (13.56) and No. 3 in the state in the 100 dash (11.80), junior Peyton Hollis, the state leader in the 800 (2:09.61), and horizontal jumper Alexandra Bonn. Bonn has won three Meet of Champions titles in her career in the triple jump (two indoors and one outdoors) and Cox and Hollis both captured M of C titles this past indoor season.
Old Tappan, who won its first state title last year has the firepower to do it again with hurdler/sprinter Abigail Dennis and thrower Layla Giordano leading the charge. But Old Tappan has to defeat a very strong field that includes sprint strong Winslow and Timber Creek to stay in top.
Clayton is aiming for a three-peat in Group 1, and Rumson will have to avenge a 16-point loss to Point Pleasant Boro in the Central Jersey meet to win back-to back Group 2 titles.
The Chatham and Demarest boys and the Elizabeth girls have never won state titles, but the way things look on paper, this could finally be their year to hoist up the trophy.
A victory by Chatham in Group 3 would be a fitting way to cap off its best season in school history. The Cougars won the 4x800 Championship of America race at the Penn Relays, and captured their first ever titles at the NJAC, Morris County and North Jersey, Sec. 2 Group 3 Championships.
The Elizabeth girls are also seeking to complete what would be their greatest season ever. The Minutemen, coming off the North Jersey, Sec. 2 Group 4 title, have a one of the best 1-2 punches in the state in sprinter Cynthia Boakye and jumper Maisha Valme.
As for Demarest, with sophomore jumper Liam Paneque and hurdler/sprinter Jack Attali piling up points, the Norsemen have a great chance to win its first title and become the first Bergen County boys team to win a state title since River Dell captured the Group 2 trophy in 2016.
The Group 3 girls competition is absolutely loaded, featuring three athletes who are on top of the state leaderboard, and another star who could sweep the sprints!!!
Sophia Curtis of Ocean City (400 hurdles triple jump), Layla Giordano of Old Tappan (discus), and Adannia Agbo of Morris Hills (long jump) are all NJ 1 in those events!!! And Nylah Jones of Timber Creek is the top seed in the 100, 200 and 400!!!
Curtis, a junior, has run 1:00.51 in the 400 hurdles and leaped 40-10.25 in the triple jump. Giordano's state-leading mark in the discus is 157-0 and she has thrown a NJ No. 2 45-6 in the shot put. Giordano, a junior, is just five girls in state history to throw over 45 in the shot and beyond 150 in the discus.
Agbo, a senior, has soared a state best 19-1.50 in the long jump.
Jones, a junior, has run a NJ No. 2 time of 11.79 in the 100, 24.64 in the 200, which is is NJ No. 5, and 55.83 in the 400, which places her NJ No. 4.
RED HOT HURDLES
The overall meet records in both boys hurdles are on very shaky ground.
Bryce Tucker of Pennsauken and Nate Rayan of Scotch Plains-Fanwood and are capable of dropping some bombs iver the barriers.
Tucker, who is headed to Rutgers, moved to the top of the national rankings and into No. 8 on the all-time NJ list when he ran 51.40 to win the South Jersey, Group 4 400 hurdles. Now he has the overall meet record of 51.58 set in 2001 by the great Dwight Ruff of Camden in his crosshairs.
Tucker will have to run fast to beat Rayan, who ran a US No. 5 time of 52.57 to win the NJ, Sec. 2 race last week.
The Clemson-bound Rayan will not only be trying to upset Tucker in the 400 IH, but he's going to be chasing the overall meet record of 13.43 set in 1999 by Danyne Brown of Camden. Rayan's PR s 13.46, which is tied for No. 3 in state history and No. 6 in the U.S. this season, but he ran that time after hitting the final hurdle and nearly falling at the Union County Championships.
Rayan will have to be at his best to avenge his loss to junior Yashaya Brown of Washington Township in the 55 hurdles at the indoor Meet of Champions. Brown has run 13.84 this season, which is NJ No. 2.
RAISING THE BAR
One of the best chances of an overall meet record going down (all Groups combined) is in the boys Group 4 pole vault where Brian O'Sullivan of Hillsborough could make history!
Do yourself a favor, and don't take your eyes off of O'Sullivan when he is on the runway because the Rutgers-bound star could do something that's never happened before.
O'Sullivan, who moved up to No. 2 in state history in the pole vault when he cleared 16-6.50 at the Skyland Conference Championships on May 23, will be aiming to break the overall meet record of 16-2.75 set in 2004 by Adam Sarafian of Ocean Township.
And if he's on his game, who knows, maybe O'Sullivan can make a run at Sarafian's state record of 17-4.50 that was set at the 2004 Shore Conference Championships!
Which overall girls meet record is most likely to fall?
It's the javelin where Leah Howard of Millville should demolish the overall record of 152-9 set in 2014 by Katie Johnston of Haddonfield. Howard launched a massive bomb of 163-1, which is No. 2 in state history, at the Woodbury Relays in April. Howard, who has thrown beyond 158 feet in four meets this season, could challenge the state record of 168-6 set in 2019 by Brielle Smith of Oakcrest.
There hasn't been a 7-foot high jumper in New Jersey in seven years, but Damarion Potts of South Brunswick has the ability to join that elite club in the Group 4 meet, and he has also has good shot to sweep the jumps!
Potts came close to making 7-0 when he cleared a PR and NJ No. 1 of 6-10.25 at the Central Jersey, Group 4 meet last week. The last NJ high school athlete to make 7-0 was Markquese Bell of Bridgeton, who made 7-0 in his junior year at the 2016 Cape Atlantic League Championships.
In case you are wondering, the Group 4 high jump record is the same as the overall meet record (all groups combined). It's 7-2 by Robert Jordan of Millville in 1999.
In addition to being the favorite in the HJ, Potts, who won the HJ and LJ at the indoor Meet of Champions in March, also leads the state in the LL with 23-9, and is NJ No. 2 in the triple jump with a 46-10.75.
It will tough to win all three jumps with all three on the same day and just three attempts permitted in each, but I wouldn't ever bet against Potts!
GROUP 4: Pennsauken
GROUP 3: Chatham
GROUP 1: Glassboro
NON-PUBLIC A: Christian Brothers
NON-PUBLIC B: St. Rose
GROUP 2: Demarest
GROUP 4: Elizabeth
GROUP 3: Old Tappan
GROUP 2: Rumson
GROUP 1: Clayton
NON-PUBLIC A: Union Catholic
NON-PUBLIC B: Wilberforce