Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic (Scotch Plains, N.J.) has been named the 2017 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
The ALL-USA teams are coordinated by Fred Baer, founder, Track and Field Writers of America with girls selections by Mike Kennedy, high school editor of Track and Field News.
Girls Track & Field Coach of the Year: Joe Lee, Bullis School
Name: Sydney McLaughlin
School: Union Catholic (Scotch Plaines, N.J.)
Events: 300 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 200 meters, 400 meters, 4 x 400
McLaughlin put an exclamation point on repeat honors as American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year with a trio of signature races in June that capped an iconic career at Union Catholic (Scotch Plains, N.J.).
“I’m just trying to turn it up a notch every time I compete,” she said. “I definitely recognize the importance of building my brand with the younger girls looking up to me.
“Sports has allowed me to see the world, to relieve stress, to have fun and now it’s given me a platform. That’s something that you have to be responsible with, especially being a woman.”
At the New Jersey Group (state) championships on June 2 — McLaughlin lowered her high school record in the 400 meter hurdles to 54.03 seconds, also a National Federation Record. (She had run 54.15 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials to make the U.S. team.) She also won state titles at 200 and 400 meters in 22.96 and 51.88, respectively — the fastest high school outdoor clockings of 2017.
A week later at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, she won the 400-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash, matching a state record with 11 individual career gold medals at the Meet of Champions. She ran a comfortable 56.97 in the 400 hurdles followed by a 51.91 in the open 400. She wound up winning both races by more than three seconds.
The 11 Meet of Champions golds tied Columbia legend Olivia Baker for most MOC golds, combined indoors and outdoors. McLaughlin’s haul includes four consecutive golds in the 400 hurdles.
Then at the New Balance National Invitational, she became the first high school girl to run a full lap (400 meters) under 50 seconds with a 49.85 split that gave Union Catholic the high school record of 2:05.93 in the 1,000 meter Swedish medley relay (legs of 100, 200, 300, and 400 meters).
Still remaining on her June schedule were the USATF Nationals in Sacramento, where berths on the USA team for next month’s IAAF World championships were at stake for the top three finishers.
A year ago, the then 16-year-old McLaughlin placed third in the 400 hurdles in 54.15 at the U.S. Olympic Trials (the USATF championships) to became the youngest American track Olympian in more than four decades. She reached the semifinals in Rio.
At this year’s USATF finals McLaughlin blew away her national (and world junior) records, running 53.82 in the (world’s) deepest ever 400 hurdles race. She finished sixth in a time that also ranks her No. 6 in the world this year — and would have placed fourth at last year’s Olympic finals. No woman had ever run that fast in any race to only finish in sixth.
“That was a fast race,” McLaughlin said after the competition. “It’s great to see that I progressed this far. Coming off the high school season, coming into the pro race against these fast women, I think that’s exactly where I wanted to be. I knew I couldn’t make the team because I had to run a 52.”
It was the first time ever that three women had run in the 52’s in the one race.
McLaughlin plans to take a short break before enrolling at the University of Kentucky in the fall. At least for her freshman year, McLaughlin plans to run the short hurdles and do the long jump, stepping away for now from her signature events.
McLaughlin leaves high school with a slew of records and accomplishments, but also having left an imprint on her community and young girls.
“I had just crossed the finish line last year at my state meet and this little 3-year-old girl gave me a poster she’d made of me,” McLaughlin said. “Now every meet she comes and talks to me and just wants to be around me. I still can’t believe that I’m the one that some young girls look up to, but I don’t take it lightly. It’s an honor.”