Rahway's Rolando Simpson Soars To New Heights

There were several jaw-dropping and eye-popping performances produced all across the state during the NJSIAA Sectional Championships this past weekend.

But one that many people may have missed and one that didn't get enough attention is the remarkable air show that Rahway's Rolando Simpson's delivered in the high jump.

Simpson, who came into this past indoor season with a PR of just 5-6 in the high jump, shocked himself, his coaches and probably everyone who was paying attention when he leveled up and exploded over the bar at 6-10 at Saturday's North Jersey, Sec. 2 Group 3 meet at Warren Hills.      

The 6-10 clearance broke the meet record, was a PR of 6 inches for Simpson, whose previous best of 6-4 came when he finished third at the Indoor Meet of Champions this past winter, and it elevated Simpson to the No. 1 spot in the state rankings this season!  Simpson also tied the Rahway school record of 6-10 that was set in 1991 by Lemmon Hamilton at the NJ Sec. 2 Group 2 meet.

That's not all.

Right after he made 6-10 on his second attempt and narrowly missed at 7-0, Simpson, a showed off his versatility when he hustled over to the track and ran a PR of 56.09 to win the 400 hurdles.

Simpson all ran an outdoor PR' of 22.40 in the 200 and a lifetime PR of 49.28 in the 400 to place second in those two races to finish the two-day meet with 3 overall PR's and a total of 36 points to lead the Indians to a runner-up finish behind Somerville, 96-93.

How many other athletes in the state hit PR's in 3 individual events at the sectional championships? I don't have an exact number, but I guarantee the list is small.     

What makes Simpson's 6-10 even more impressive and stunning is that it was his just his second time jumping this season and his first time since making 6-2 at the Union County Relays a month ago.

Rahway coach Leon Bunion has always felt that Simpson had the potential to raise the bar to big heights, but not this soon.    

"To be honest, we were shocked that it happened so soon,'' said Bunion. "We've known Rolando has the potential to be a solid high jumper for a while, however in this case we weren't expecting a jump like this just yet. Rolando has missed three weeks this season due a freak ankle injury he sustained at work. So he hasn't had much high jump practice this season. So it was a huge shock to be honest.''

What was the key to Simpson's career-best day?  

"I think they key to the improvement was fresh legs,'' said Bunion. "I don't think he's ever high jumped on fresh legs. He's a very well rounded athlete and a team player, so he's usually in multiple events for the team. Because the high jump was first, he was able to jump on fresh legs. Then he had to run off to catch his heat of the 400 hurdles.''

There hasn't been a 7-0 high jumper in NJ since Markquese Bell of Bridgeton made 7-0 at the Cape Atlantic League Championships in May 0f 2016. 
Bunion feels Simpson has all the skills needed to join the elite 7-0 club!

"Based on his attempts at 7-0, I definitely can see Rolando clearing that height,'' said Bunion. "Coach Mahdi Sumter is doing an amazing job with our jumpers, so the sky is definitely the limit.''