Malachi James Reacts To Lack Of Wind Gauge, Calls For Change

Malachi James of Burlington City was understandably frustrated that there wasn't a wind gauge used at the South Jersey Groups 1-4 Championships this past weekend at Pennsauken.

He's not alone.  

To refresh your memory - this past Friday, James ran the fastest time in NJ high school history when he burned a red hot 10.18 to win the South Jersey, Group 1 100-meter dash. Right after James finished, senior  Ajani Dwyer of Washington ran 10.21 and junior  Cole Cramer of Southern went 10.22 to finish 1-2 in the South Jersey, Group 4 100.  

Those are the three fastest times in NJ history and are all well under the state wind-legal record of 10.35 that was set by Jamar Ervin of Camden with a +2.0 wind reading at the 2000 Meet of Champions at South Brunswick.

But the times by James, Dwyer and Cramer are not eligible for state record consideration because there wasn't a wind gauge to determine if the times were wind legal. For a time to be wind legal the wind gauge reading must be 2.0 meters per second or less. Anything above 2.0 is wind-aided. So the times by James, Dwyer, and Cramer will be listed instead as the three fastest all-conditions times in NJ history.

This also happened 5 years ago when there was no wind gauge present when the late Mario Heslop of Franklin ran 10.33 to win the 2019 Central Jersey, Group 4 100 dash at Howell.

For the record, there were wind gauges used at five of the eight sectional sites this past weekend - Delsea (SJ Groups 2-3), Jackson Liberty (CJ Groups 2-3), Hillsborough (CJ Groups 1-4), Ridge (NJ Sec. 2 Groups 1-4), and Warren Hills (NJ Sec. 2 Groups 2-3).

James, who is committed to play football and run track at Syracuse, weighed in with his thoughts on losing a chance at owning the state wind-legal record. He also feels that meet records should be listed differently now than in the past.

"The absence of a wind gauge at Pennsauken was unfortunate,'' said James. "Having a wind gauge at every county, sectional, state, & MOC meet needs to be mandatory,. "It's disappointing how my 10.18 won't count in the All-Time FAT 100m dash list just because there wasn't a wind gauge. On the other hand, New Jersey counts hand times as meet records from 20+ years ago with no wind gauge. It's just not fair at all. I'm not the first person this has happened too, and I won't be the last. I hope me speaking out allows the NJSIAA to do something about this situation.''

James feels that wind wasn't a big factor in contributing to his 10.18. 

 "I feel like the wind barely impacted my 100m,'' he said. "In my opinion, you can easily say you can feel a tailwind if you're in the stands just standing there, but running full speed on the track is completely different. If you compare my 10.56 at sectionals in 2022 and my 10.18 from Friday, the races look identical. I had a great start and after my transition phase, it didn't look like I slowed down, not even a little bit. The wind gauge reading on MileSplit in 2022 was a 0.6 tailwind. That should say a lot.''

James can't wait to hit the track for the 100 at the State Group 1 Championships this Friday at Franklin High School.  

"I'm gonna run the same 100 I ran on Friday and if I cross the line and the clock reads 10.1 again, then there's no argument if my 10.1 was heavily wind-aided,';; said James. "We'll never know, and that's a problem. We train for precision, but that same precision wasn't given back to us. It's on to the next round though.''

Washington Township head boys coach Chris Mitchell agrees with James, as does every coach we reached out to. You've be hard pressed to find anyone coach or athlete not in favor of mandatory wind gauges at all state meets.     

"I was definitely surprised that there was not a wind gauge there,'' said Mitchell. "One of the biggest meets of the year at one of the best tracks in the state, and there's no wind gauge - it was truly surprising. Honestly, I think the speed of the this year's athletes have taken the state by surprise. Ajani, Malachi and Cole are running mind blowing times.  It was almost like officials or whoever would be in control of having one (wind gauge) there simply did not think those times would take place. I would absolutely be in favor of having mandatory wind gauges at all non dual meets in New Jersey. With the state meetings coming up soon,  this weekend simply gave one simple thing to request a change for- mandatory wind gauges need to happen.''

Danny Johnson NJ, one of the greatest sprinters in NJ history during his days at Rahway, knows all about wind gauges.

At the 2001 Meet of Champions at South Brunswick High, Johnson won the 20.93 in the 200 and the 100 in 10.30. Johnson's 20.93 was the wind-legal state record until Shamali Whittle of Nottingham ran 20.75 in 2021, and his wind-aided 10.30 (+2.2) in the 100 was the fastest all-conditions time in NJ history until this past Friday.     

"I totally agree,'' said Johnson.  "They (wind gauges) should definitely should be mandatory. The kids work so hard and for them to be told their record is not legal or not due to the fact there's no wind gauge is ridiculous. They should have them for every championship meet. I know how they feel when it comes to the wind gauge and if a record was broken or not. It doesn't take much, just add the wind gauge and to push a button before each race to check the wind reading.''

Al Stumpf, the NJSIAA Track and Field Tournament Director, said wind gauges aren't mandatory at each sectional site, but he wants that changed. 

"I completely understand his (James) frustration,'' said Stumpf. "I agree with him and I will recommend to the track and field committee that wind gauges are mandatory at all sectional sites in the future.     

Stumpf also said wind gauges are mandatory at the State Group Championship meets this Friday and Saturday and at the Meet of Champions.

The Groups 1-4 meet is at Franklin, Groups 2-3 at Delsea, the Non-Public A and B is at Stockton University, and the Meet of Champions is scheduled for June 12 at Pennsauken.