Willie McLaughlin saw this day coming.
Ever since the kids were in elementary school, when he and his wife Mary introduced them to track and field, they showed an unusual aptitude for the sport.
So as Taylor and Sydney McLaughlin look to pull off a rare brother-sister triumph at Wednesday’s NJSIAA Meet of Champions, their dad sees it as “business as usual” for the Dunellen family.
“We knew Sydney and Taylor would do well,” he said. “We didn’t think they’d do well so quickly, but we knew they were exceptional.”
The bloodlines are there. Willie ran at East Orange High School and later Manhattan College, getting his quarter-mile time down to 45.3 open and 44.2 on the 4×400 and advancing to the semifinals of the 1984 Olympic trials. Mary was a 2:12 half-miler from the Buffalo, N.Y. area.
Willie coached them until high school, taking them to compete unattached at various meets.
“It’s easier now,” he said. “I’m not coaching them so I can sit back and watch as a spectator.”
There’s plenty to take in at the M of C, which starts at 2:30 p.m. at South Plainfield’s Frank Jost Field. Though only a freshman, Sydney is the strong favorite to win both the girls 400 hurdles and 100 hurdles — an unprecedented feat. Her meet-record times from the Non-Public A championship, 58.24 and 13.66, rank third and fifth, respectively, in New Jersey schoolgirl history.
Taylor, a junior, missed five weeks with a stress reaction in his shin but recovered in time to earn the second seed in the boys 400 at 47.99, just behind the 47.66 of Timber Creek’s Jamaad Nuse. Taylor also anchors Union Catholic’s top-seeded 4×400, which checks in at 3:19.52.
In fact, Union Catholic has a chance to earn two fistfuls of gold medals Wednesday. Senior Obafemi Animishaun is the second seed in the 400 hurdles (53.91) and fourth in the 110 hurdles (14.44). Senior Jordan Jimerson is the third seed in the 400 (48.07). Junior Sean Brennan is tied for fourth in the discus (147-10) and senior Andrew Ghizzone is tied for fourth in the pole vault (14-6).
Franklin seeks 4×800 win
There is only one thing left for Nate Gravesande, Anfernee Joseph, Javon Pittman and Ross Clarke left to achieve in the 4×800. After winning Group IV and breaking the Somerset County record on Friday, Franklin’s quartet could cap their dream season with MOC gold.
“We feel like we have a very good chance,” Clarke said. “Since freshman year you always dream of being a state champion. This could become a reality for us and we’re really excited for it.”
Franklin is the top seed at 7:46.53, with Group IV runner-up Ridgewood right behind at 7:46.85.
Klein, Glasergreen showdown
The Skyland Conference will be well-represented in the girls 3200 as rivals Dana Klein of Gill St. Bernard’s and Eve Glasergreen of North Hunterdon meet for the final time. Glasergreen is seeded second at 10:26, behind Tenafly’s Josette Norris (10:25). Klein, the indoor state champion, out-kicked Glasergreen in the 1600 and 3200 at last month’s Skyland Conference meet.
The girls throws are chock full of local contenders. Franklin junior Ashley Berry, who finished third in the discus last spring, returns as the top seed at 135-7. Delaware Valley sophomore Jessy Page is second (132-10). Franklin’s Christina Abiola is second in the shot put (41-8.5) and North Hunterdon’s Amy Suttmeier is third in the javelin (133-6).
Piscataway’s girls are the top seed in the 4×100 (47.48) and Chiefs senior Brionna Pettus is fifth seed in the 400 (54.92). North Hunterdon’s Morgan Harvey is fifth in the girls 400 hurdles (1:01.88) and the defending champ in the 100 hurdles.
Other local boys contenders: Plainfield’s Steven Jones in the 110 hurdles (second seed, 14.35), Hillsborough’s Nick McFarland in the 1600 (seventh, 4:14.67), Ridge’s Nick Giannone in the pole vault (second, 15-0), Montgomery’s Vlad Castillo in the discus (165-10, eighth), Piscataway’s Eric Bethea in the triple jump (second, 47-4.75) and long jump (sixth, 22-8.25), Somerville’s Collin Litts in the triple jump (fifth, 45-11.75) and Hunterdon Central in the 4×400 (fourth, 3:20.43).
Staff writer Jerry Carino: email@example.com