By Jack Pfeifer
PORTLAND, Ore. – Three high school teams from New Jersey – the Delsea boys along with the girls’ teams from South Brunswick and Columbia/Maplewood – have come to Oregon this week for an inaugural meet attempting to crown the nation’s best high school track teams.
The event is called the Nike Track Nationals, and it will be held on Friday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. Pacific time at the University of Oregon. The athletes and coaches are all being transported by Nike to Eugene, Ore., where they will be housed at student dorms across the street from Hayward Field, the site of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Mariah Browne, South Brunswick’s star longjumper, told the website www.mycentraljersey.com. “I am beyond excited.”
South Brunswick and Columbia are two of the 12 girls’ teams in the competition. Teams were selected based on performances they submitted during the season, divided into eight regions around the country. Each regional winner was chosen – Columbia won the Northeast Region – along with four at-large teams. South Brunswick, rated second in the Region and ninth nationally, was the last of the at-large girls’ selections. Columbia is ranked third nationally.
Ten events will be contested – the 100, 400, 800, mile, 100/110 hurdles, high jump, pole vault, long jump, shot put and discus. Scoring will be on a decathlon-style system. Teams must contest nine of the 10 events.
“As a team, we’ve kind-of conquered New Jersey,” Browne said, “so it will be nice to see how we do against the best teams in the nation. Having Columbia there helps, because it makes us come together as a team, since they are our rival and we want to beat them.”
Delsea Regional was the top-ranked boys’ team in the Northeast, and 12th nationally. They are led by the sprinter/jumper Sean McPherson (10.73, 23-8.5), highjumper Darryll McDuffie (6-5.75), halfmiler Steve Butenewicz (1:55), hurdler Thomas Berryman (14.58) and discus thrower Jonathan Hickman (166-5).
The boys’ 800 should be an interesting race. The field will include Carter Hewitt, a 1:53 halfmiler from Brookwood H.S. in Georgia, and Ford Bell, the Tennessee state champion, who ran 1:51 for Brentwood Academy.
Brentwood also has Kevin Lazas (23-5 LJ, 15-5 PV) and thrower Steve Wade (58-7/170-6).
The hometown favorite, Barlow (Gresham, Ore.), will have to compete without two injured athletes, miler Ben Foubert (4:12) and thrower Ryan Crouser (69-8/201-6). Crouser broke his foot in May and is on crutches. Barlow still has the top-ranked sprinter, Arthur Delaney (10.42w).
The top-ranked boys’ team, Vista Murietta of Southern California, is led by Jovonte Slater (10.45, 23-1), Bernard Quinn (47.96), Drew Dalton (4:16), thrower Emil Mejares (168-4) and hurdler Chris Navarro (14.44). The second-ranked boys’ team, also from California, is Loyola of Los Angeles, led by one of the nation’s leading young runners, the junior miler Elias Gedyon (4:08).
The top-ranked girls’ team is one of the nation’s best-known programs, Long Beach Poly of California, which often has one of the country’s top teams. This year’s includes sprinters Carisma Lyday (11.75) and Akawkaw Ndipagbor (53.49), halfmiler Arielle Stevenson (2:10), hurdler Melia Cox (13.75) and jumpers Tara Richmond (5-10) and Traci Hicks (18-5.5). LBP has run 45.29 and 3:39.15 this year in the girls’ 4x1 and 4x4, the nation’s fastest times. There are no relays in this meet.
Columbia/Maplewood – which has run 45.89/3:40.97 this year, among the nation’s best – counters with Brittney Jackson (2:08) in the 800, Kayann Richards (13.91) in the hurdles, Amber Ballew (18-9) in the long jump, Jasmine Carter (11.89) in the 100, Ty-Vonna Jackson (56.53) in the 400and Chinyere Ozuzu in the weights (37-10, 129).
The South Brunswick girls, in addition to Browne – the Middlesex County recordholder at 19-5.25 – are led by hurdler Jamie Thompson (14.36), quartermiler Alicia Osley (57.71) and Stanford-bound middle-distance runner Sophia Ginez (2:14/5:01). “I can’t wait to put myself out there and test myself against the best,” Browne said.
The top-ranked New York teams were the Sheepshead Bay boys (#67 nationally) and the Shenendehowa girls (#24). Sheepshead was led by three excellent individuals – sprinter John Thomas (10.85), hurdler Jose Farley (14.03) and jumper Rolyce Boston (23-7.75) – but was hurt by relative weakness in other events, especially the high jump (best of 5-6) and the 1,600 (4:37). Neither team will compete at the meet.
On Saturday, the day after the meet, all of the athletes will be guests at that day’s annual Prefontaine Classic invitational meet, where they will sit in their own section at Hayward Field.
The complete fields and their national rankings, as determined by NTN’s own scoring system:
BOYS Vista Murietta, Calif. (1), Loyola, Los Angeles (2), Barlow, Gresham, Ore. (3), Kentwood, Mich. (4), Brookwood, Snellville, Ga. (5), Wayne, Huber Heights, Ohio (6), Brentwood, Tenn. (7), Dana Hills, Calif. (8), Delsea Regional, N.J. (12), Brophy Prep, Phoenix (13), Spring, Texas (20), Bismarck, N.D. (26)
GIRLS Long Beach Poly, Calif. (1), Chandler, Ariz. (2), Columbia, Maplewood, N.J. (3), Harvard-Westlake, North Hollywood, Calif. (4), Western Branch, Chesapeake, Va. (5), Desert Vista, Phoenix (7), Trabuco Hills, Mission Viejo, Calif. (8), South Brunswick, Monmouth Junction, N.J. (9), Lee’s Summit, Mo. (13), Hopkins, Minnetonka, Minn. (15), Kentwood, Wash. (31), Clinton, Miss. (62)