Wynn And James Lead Records Galore At Meet of Champs

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What happened at Sunday's NJSIAA Meet of Champions at Ocean Breeze was simply mind-blowing!!!

Based on all the performances in the state so far this season, there was every reason to expect that a few meet records had the potential to fall, and that we could also see some all-time great times.

But there is no way anyone could have ever predicted the collection of electrifying, eye-popping and jaw-dropping performances that took place, which made this arguably the greatest indoor Meet of Champions in the 55-year history of the event!!!

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This day will go down in history for so many reasons as New Jersey's best athletes left lots of smoke on the track, launched several bombs from the circle, soared to record leaps in the field, and added remarkable chapters to some amazing comeback stories.

The assault on the record book was the biggest storyline as Malachi James and Sianni Wynn delivered epic performances as each smashed two of the 11 records that were broken (7 girls/4 boys)!! That's right, 11 of the 28 events produced new meet records!!! That's nearly 40 percent!! And in many of the events where records weren't broken, the winning times/marks were among the best in meet and state history, and many of the runner-up and third-place finishes would have been good enough to win in many of the previous Mete of Champions.     

Here are the highlights on an epic day in NJ track and field lore.

Meet of Champions Highlights


In a meet like this it's usually hard to pick out which performances were the best of the best, but what Wynn and James did in the 55 and 200-meter dashes was breathtaking and straight up legendary!!

Burlington City's James, who missed the entire outdoor season after suffering a third hamstring injury last April, burned up the track by winning the boys 55 in 6.22 (he broke the meet record in the trials with a 6.30) and the 200 in 21.28. Those times obliterated the meet records of 6.34 and 21.68. James has now won 4 M of C titles in his career (he won the 100 and 200 at the 2022 outdoor M of C.

But even more significantly, the 6.22 by the Syracuse-bound James is the second fastest time in state history, No. 2 in the U.S. this season, and his 21.28 is No. 6 in NJ history. Only Ajani Dwyer of Washington, who ran 6.18 last month, has run faster than James in the 55 in state history. Dwyer suffered some injuries that kept him out of the State Group 4 championships, so he was unable to qualify for the M of C.

Wynn, a sophomore, was just as dazzling in completing the 55/200 double in the girls competition for the second straight year.

After nearly breaking the girls meet record in the 55 dash with her 6.93 in the trials, Wynn dropped a 6.81 in the final to crush the meet record of 6.92 set in 2009 by Dominque Booker of Montclair Immaculate. Wynn came back later and sent the packed crowd into a frenzy when she lit up the oval with a 24.00 win in the 200!!!!

Wynn's 6.81 places her No. 3 in state history, and her 24.00 is tied for No. 2 all-time in NJ history!!!

I told you there was a lot of smoke coming off the track at Ocean Breeze.

Only Michele Glover of Willingboro (6.73 in 1981) and Wendy Vereen of Trenton (6.79 in 1984) have run faster than Wynn in the 55, and Vereen is the only NJ girl to go faster in the 200 (23.87 in 1984). Wynn's 24.00 placed her in a tie with legendary World Record holder  Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic, who ran that time at the Easterns in 2016.


Taylor Cox keeps getting faster and faster and she keeps breaking records.

The Union Catholic junior was at her best on Sunday when he blasted her way over the barriers to win her second straight 55 hurdle title, this time ripping a 7.73 to shatter the meet record of 7.82 set in 2015 by the great Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic. Cox's 7.73 is No. 1 in the nation this season, and No. 3 in NJ history!!

But that's not all.

About five minutes after the hurdles, Cox was back in the starting blocks for the 55 dash final, and she once again torched the track by running 6.90 to place second to Wynn's 6.81. Cox's 6.90 is No. 2 in meet history and No. 7 all-time in NJ.


Both triple jumps and the girls long jump produces meet records.

Senior Sophia Curtis of Ocean City soared 40-9.25 on her final attempt to cap off the greatest girls triple jump performance in meet history.  Curtis, the M of C outdoor winner in the TJ, recorded the four best jumps in meet history as smashed the meet record of 39-6.25.

In the boys triple jump, Franklin senior Daniel Arana, in second-place after five attempts, came up with the jump of is life when he soared 48-2.75, No. 10 in state history, on his final attempt to rally for the win and take down the meet record of 46-9.9.50 set in 2022 by Jaden Johnson of Timber Creek.

In the long jump competitions, Montclair senior Ashley Noel also broke the meet record on her final jump when she leaped 18-8 to break the mark of 18-7.50 set by Nakaja Weaver of North Brunswick in 2019. In the boys long jump, Demarest junior Liam Paneque finished first with a mark of 23-0, No. 4 in meet history.


Clemmie Lilley of Rumson and Luke Schagelin of Morris Knolls, so close to winning their first Meet of Champions titles in the past, broke through in breathtaking fashion with heart-pounding victories in the 800.

Lilley, second in the 400 at the indoor M of C last year and second in the 800 at the outdoor M of C last June, executed her race plan flawlessly to win her first title in record-breaking fashion. Lilley, in third-place at the 400 mark, moved from third to first at the bell and blasted away from a strong field. The junior ran 63.69 over the final 400 and flashed a huge smile as she came across the line and stopped the clock at 2:08.30!!! That erased the meet record of 2:08.81 set in 2018 by Victoria Vanriele of Gov. Livingston and placed Lilley No. 6 on the all-time state indoor list. Lilley came back later to split 56.39 as the anchor on Rumson's 4x400 that finished fourth in a school record 3:56.70!!  

Schagelin, who was second in the 800 at the indoor and outdoor M of C last year, left no doubt that he was going to be the 4-lap champ this time as he shot out to the lead right away and the University of Tennessee-bound Schagelin controlled the race the whole way, winning in 1:51.93, an indoor PR and the fourth fastest time in meet history.


One of the most eagerly anticipated races of the meet came in the girls 1600m when defending champion Emma Zawatski of Freehold Township and freshman phenom Paige Sheppard of Union Catholic clashed in a memorable matchup.

The race more than lived up to the hype as Sheppard, who ran 2:19.70 for the final 800 and 64.47 for the final 400 unleashed a wicked kick when she passed Zawatski just before the bell. Sheppard then leveled up ran and a 31.93 final 200 to hold off Zawatski and win the sizzling showdown, 4:48.13 to 4:48.95.

Sheppard, who finished a couple steps behind Zawatski when they went 1-2 at the XC M of C in November, broke the meet record of 4:48.23 set in 2009 by Jillian Smith of Southern and her 4:48.13 is the fastest time in NJ history ever for a 1,600-meter race. Note: There are faster times in state history for the mile, but not for a 1,600 race). Zawatski's time is No. 4 in meet history. 


The 3200's and the boys 1600's produced some eye-popping results.

In the boys 3200m, Ridgewood junior Luke Pash took over the lead from Peyton Shute of Woodbury with 800 to go and gapped the field over the next 4 laps before freezing the numbers on the clock at 8:59.77, No. 2 in Bergen County history and tied for No. 8 in meet history.  Pash ran 4:26.09 over the final 1600m and 2:08.27 over the final 800.

In the boys 1600m, Manalapan senior Stephen Kyvelos ran a 29.90 7th lap to surge into the lead and then closed in 30.35 to hold off hard-charging Avery Keith, 4:12.45 to 4:13.72. Kyvelos ran 2:01.43 over the final 800.

The girls 3200m was one of the dramatic races of the meet as Rosemary Shay of Middletown South scored an upset win by edging Liliah Gordon of Northern Burlington, 10:26.44 to 10:26.49, the No. 5 and No. 6 fastest times ever run at this meet. 

The Villanova-bound Shay, who lost to Gordon by 5 seconds at the State Group 3 meet, was trailing Gordon by 1.71 seconds at the bell, but dug down deep and ran 34.40 for the last 200m to score the biggest and most emotional win of her life. Emma Zawatski, second in the 1600m earlier, doubled back ad placed third in 10:36.13. Cayleigh Kaiser of Union Catholic placed fifth in 10:43.69, the fastest time ever for a freshman in a 3,200-meter race. Note: There have been faster freshmen times for 2-miles, but not for a 3,200-meter race.   


Josh Huisman of St. Rose and Jessica Oji of Livingston both repeated as champions in the circle.

The university of Michigan-bound Huisman unloaded a bomb of 67-7 on his final attempt, which is No. 3 in state history and No. 2 in the nation this winter!! It's Huisman third M of C title. He also won the shot put last spring.

Oji, a junior, continued her amazing comeback from knee surgery last spring, successfully defending her title with a 44-9.25. Oji, who was a spinner before the knee injury, changed her form this season back to the glide and proved to the rest of the state that she's still the queen of the circle. Oji said she's been working on returning to the spin, and hopes to use that technique at nationals next week.


Yashahya Brown of Washington Township, who set the state record in the 55 hurdles last month with his US No. 1 time of 7.06, added yet another record to his resume by finishing first over the barriers for the second straight year in 7.18. Brown broke the meet record of 7.19 set by by Jermaine Collier of Trenton in 2012.


Ryan Merlino of Oakcrest and Cade Zeolla of West Morris put on quite a show in the pole vault.

The top two vaulters in the state battled over the bar, which was raised all the way up to 16-0.

Merlino, a senior, made a PR of 15-6 on his first attempt to win on misses. Zeolla, a junior, made 15-6 on this third attempt. That ties them both for No. 3 all-time in meet history.

Alanna Woolfolk of Clayton won the fourth M of C title of her career in the girls high jump by clearing 5-8. The Rutgers-bound Woolfook has captured two high jump titles indoors and two outdoors.

Freehold Boro senior Malakai Pressey made a PR of 6-8 on his second attempt to clinch the boys high jump title. Not bad for a guy who came into the season with a PR of 6-2.

In the girls pole vault, Hillsborough senior Ella Karolewski had just one miss through 12-0 to win the title on misses.


Jaden Marchan of Leonia, the state leader all season, won the boys 400 in 47.73 and placed second in the 200 in 21.73. It's the first season of indoor track for the Georgetown-bound Marchan, who was second at the M of C in the 400 last spring. Marchan is the first M of C winner ever from his school (indoors or outdoors). 

In the girls 400, Rhia Randolph of Union Catholic reset her state freshman 400 record when she won the 2-lapper in 55.53.


In boys relays, Toms River North rallied on the anchor leg of the 4x400 to edge St. Peter's Prep, 3:17.98 to 3:18.13. Those are the two fastest times in the state this season! Colts Neck ran 7:58.68 to capture the boys 4x800.

On the girls side,  Timber Creek edged Winslow in the 4x400, 3:52.06 to 3:53.32, and the Haddonfield girls loaded up its 4x800 for the first time this season and finished 9:16.28 Haddonfield, No. 4 in meet history.

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