The NJSIAA’s new scoring system for the state group track championships arrived just in time for South Brunswick High School’s boys.
With points allocated to reward depth and balance instead of pure star power, the Vikings are a co-favorite to win the Group IV title this weekend. They will bring 22 athletes to Egg Harbor High School, where the host is the other prime contender.
“I did the numbers based on the sectional results, and if everyone performed the same way, we would come out on top 101 to 96 over Egg Harbor, with Ridgewood third at 83,” South Brunswick coach Wilfredo Rivera said. “It’s going to come down to executing and maybe catching a break here and there. The good news for us is there are situations where we didn’t perform as well as we could have (at the sectionals). We’ll have more opportunities for upward movement.”
Under the new scoring, only the top two team finishers from each sectional are eligible for public school group titles. Eight teams in each group will compete for the top prize, with the results filtered so they score only against each other.
“It will elevate the meet because you have a lot of kids who are in an unseeded mile or unseeded 200 and now those second and third heats rally matter,” Rivera said.
South Brunswick will have athletes everywhere, but the Vikings’ power center is the jumps. LSU-bound senior Jonathan Pitt is the top seed in Group IV at 49-5 and is just a foot shy of breaking the state record. Teammate and fellow senior Christian Larbie is seeded second at 47-6.25. A third Viking senior, Jaleel Alston, is a 6-4 high jumper. In the long jump, Pitt is a 23-footer and Alston a 22-footer.
The Vikings also have the top seed in the 4×800, the second seed in the 4×100 and the second seed in the 400 hurdles with senior Stephen Teques (55.67). Behind those front-liners are a dozen complementary athletes who could chip in.
“We have a bunch of guys who would definitely not score in the old format,” Rivera said. “This gives us a chance to win the meet because it rewards depth and overall talent level.”
The Group IV, Group I and Non-Public B boys and girls championships will be held Friday and Saturday at Egg Harbor. Non-Public A, Group III and Group II will compete at South Plainfield’s Frank Jost Field. The 4×100 and 4×800 are scoring events for the first time.
Here are five other local story lines to watch:
Metuchen magic: The Bulldog boys and girls, who are exceptionally deep for Group I programs, also stand to benefit from the new format coming off a Central Group I sweep. The girls have high seeds in Bobbi Spiegel (top seed in the long jump, 17-2) and Kristina Smiling (second seed in the 1600, 5:23). The boys sport three strong relays and a top hurdler in Travone Latouche, but they will miss senior standout Aaron Lewis (leg injury) in the 400 and 200.
Other team contenders: Also in the mix for public school titles are Franklin’s boys and girls in Group IV, South Brunswick’s girls in Group IV and Woodbridge’s girls in Group III.
Speed demons: Middlesex County will put three 48-second 400 runners on the line in Group IV boys with Sayreville’s Colin Winslow, Old Bridge’s Alex Leto and East Brunswick’s Ty Jaye Robbins. Leto also leads off a Knights 4×400 that has clocked 3:18.
No hurdle too high: Dunellen senior Khabira Crawford has a chance to strike double gold in the Group I girls intermediates (second seed, 1:05.31) and highs (second seed, 14.80). Franklin’s Danielle Delgado could medal in both in Group IV girls. South Brunswick sophomore Aspen McMillan could make noise in the Group IV girls highs. In Group III girls, Woodbridge’s McKenna Coakley is the third seed in the 400 hurdles.
In the circle: South Plainfield senior Ramsey Abdeljaber is the top seed in the Group III boys discus (174-5) and the third seed in the shot put. John F. Kennedy senior Jada Phillips has put the shot 41 feet and is a contender in Group III girls. St. Joseph-Metuchen’s Brandon Ozbalik is the second seed in the Non-Public A boys shot.