Recap: Oji, Shute, James, Wynn Star at Groups 1 and 4

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Peyton Shute and Sianni Wynn were double winners, Jessica Oji and Malachi James smashed records, Avery Keith capped off a great day for the Westfield boys, and Ajani Dwyer didn't compete on the opening day of the NJSIAA Groups 1-4 Championships on Friday at Franklin High School. 

Let's check out some of the biggest highlights. 


Shute, a senior at Woodbury, was the only individual double winner as the Cornell-bound star won the Group 1 800 in a PR of 1:52.05 and the 3,200 in 9:26.98 to raise his career total to 10 State Group Championships in all 3 seasons combined.

Shute, who will be running the 1,600 and a leg on the 4x800 on Saturday, has won one state title in XC, 5 indoors, and now 4 indoors. Led by Shute, defending champion Woodbury trails Glassboro, 37-30.

The Cornell-bound Shute, who has smashed SJ records in the mile (4:08.28) and 3,200 (8:54.11) this season, was so surprised by how fast he ran in the 800 and how he felt after that he said he may run the two-lapper at the Meet of Champions? Shute said it will be either the 1,600 or the 800 at the M of C and he will focus on the mile at New Balance Nationals.  


Jessica Oji of Livingston continued her remarkable comeback from a torn ACL suffered last spring by recapturing the Group 4 shot put in meet-record fashion with a throw of 51-6.50. That broke the Group 4 record of 49-0 set in 2018 by Shelby Bigsby of Montclair.

Oji, a junior, just missed her PR of 51-10 that she threw at the Essex County Championships two weeks ago.

"It feels great to get back here and win this title again,'' said Oji. "The long rehab and recovery was tough, and the hard work is all worth it at times like this. I would say that I'm still not all the way back. I'm almost there, probably about 90 percent right now. I have a really big number that I want to hit, but I can't say it yet. I'll tell you when I get it.''


Malachi James of Burlington City was determined to take down the wind-legal state record of 10.35 in the 100 dash, but with a head-wind of 1.7 and a false start in the lane next to him in the final, he came up a bit short, winning the Group 1 race in a wind-legal 10.47.

James, who ran the fastest all-conditions time in NJ history with a 10.18 last week at Pennsauken (no wind gauge was used), broke the meet record earlier in the trials when he ran a wind-legal 10.45, tied for No. 4 in state history on the wind-legal list. James broke the  Group 1 meet record of 10.58, set in 2017 by Jonathan Taylor of Salem, who is currently a running back for the Indianapolis Colts.   

"I really felt after that 10.45 I could get it (the state record),'' said James. "I got a much better start when the false start happened then I did after that. And the headwind didn't help. But I'm not going to blame all that. I have one more shot at the state record at the Meet of Champions, and I'm going to get it.''         


One of the most anticipated matchups of the meet was the Group 4 100 dash between Ajani Dwyer of Washington Township and Cole Cramer of Southern. But it never happened.

Dwyer, the state indoor 55 dash record holder, didn't run. Washington coach said Chris Mitchell said Dwyer didn't compete for personal reasons and that Dwyer has decided not to run for the team for the remainder of the season.  

Last week, Dwyer ran 10.21 and Cramer 10.22 at the South Jersey, Group 4 meet at Pennsauken, the second and third fastest all-conditions times in NJ history. Without Dwyer in the race, Cramer rolled to victory in a wind-aided 10.59. 


Give Washington Township a lot of credit, especially Jack Schuck, who found out during math class at 11 a.m. on Friday that he was replacing Dwyer in the 4x100 and that he was going to anchor.

Washington Township's John Santos, Yashahya Brown, and Aidan Ellis gave Schuck a lead and he refused to give it up as he brought his team across first in the Group 4 4x100 in 41.94.   


Raynier Galvez wore someone else's spikes, which were a size too big, and the senior at Passaic Tech still ran the best race of his life, winning the Group 4 800 in 1:51.48, the second fastest time in the state this season.

Galvez said both his pair of spikes split open this past week, and the new pair just didn't feel comfortable. So his teammate (?/ Ortiz) offered to let him use his, which size 10.

"They were a size too big, but I just bunched up socks near the front of the shoes and got on the line,'' said Galvez.

Galvez went out in 53.79 and the closed hard to win his first outdoor state title.


Pennsauken super sophomore Sianni Wynn picked up two gold medals by anchoring the winning 4x100 that ran a school record 47.72, and she won the 100 dash in11.55 into a 1.7 headwind. 

Wynn will back on the track on Saturday in the 200 and 400 as she seeks to win her third and fourth gold medals of the meet. Wynn is the state leader in the 200 (23.76) and the 400 (53.80).     


Zoe Goldberg, a senior at Eastern, is the very definition of perseverance.

Goldberg, who tore ligaments in her left ankle at the Penn Relays in April, refused to stop competing because she had some huge goals that she been chasing her whole career and she wasn't going to let the injury deny her that opportunity.

Goldberg, with her ankle heavily wrapped, hit one of those goals on Friday when she won the girls Group 4 javelin with a throw of 140-9 to help Eastern score 24 points, which ties the Vikings with Toms River North at the top of the standings.   

"I strained the ligaments near the end of the season last year,'' said Goldberg, second in the Group 4 javelin last year. "And then I tore them at the Penn Relays. "It's been very tough to deal with mentally and physically, but I wasn't going to let the injury end my season. I will deal with the injury after the season. Everyone in this sport deals with something, whether its torn ligaments, shin splits, stress fractures. But you have to keep grinding and pushing through and overcome adversity. That's one of the things that makes this sport so great. I used to look up to all the great javelin throwers when I was younger like Nikki Woods and Leah Howard, and I always wanted to be like them and inspire others. So to finally become a state champion means everything to me.''   

The Boston University-bound Goldberg, third at the Meet of Champions last year and the state leader this season with a 146-1, said there is more work to be done.

"Winning at the Meet of Champs has been such a huge goal of mine for so long,'' said Goldberg. "I'll be giving it all I have to win that title.        


Avery Keith used a strong final 800 to pull away and win the boys Group 4 3,200 in a P of 8:57.74 to cap of a great first day for Westfield. The Blue Devils, seeking their first state title since 1977 and their third overall, lead Toms River North, 36-28.

The Princeton University-bound Keith ran a 64.72 seventh lap and closed in 64.79 to secure the win over a loaded field that included Nick Kunkel of Cherokee, second in 9:05.87, and Stephen Kyvelos of Manalapan, third in 9:06.02.

Westfield also finished 2-3 in the 800 with Alex Valencia (1:52.04) and Ryan Daly (1:52.81), and picked up huge unexpected points in the discus from junior Noah Rubenstein from, who finished second with a massive PR of 153-5 after he earned the 8th and final qualifying spot in the final. That's how you level up!!! Rubenstein's previous PR was the 140-5 he threw to place fourth at the sectional meet last week.

Morristown Jason Meza, who won the State Group 4 400 hurdle title as a sophomore two years ago, recaptured that championship by running 52.66. Meza, motivated by his runner-up finish last year to Bryce Tucker of Pennsauken, has a season best time of 52.48, which is No. 2 in the state this season.

The Cornell-bound Meza,  second in the 400 and fourth in the 400 hurdles at the 2022 Meet of Champions, said he aiming for a sub 52.00 time and the title in the 400 hurdles at the Meet of Champions this Wednesday!   


Ashley Noel of Montclair, who won the long jump at the Indoor Meet of Champions in March, took over the state lead in the LJ when the senior soared a wind-legal 19-7.75  to win the Group 4 long jump title.