To the outside world, Taylor McLaughlin will be remembered as one of the best boys track and field athletes to ever come out of New Jersey. But, within Union Catholic’s program he will forever be known as a true team player.
In a career that had countless accolades, one moment will stand out the most. McLaughlin’s defining moment came at the Non-Public A meet at South Plainfield, when he did the near impossible.
McLaughlin won four events. This not only gave his team enough points to overcome Christian Brothers Academy for the second straight week, but it also meant the senior was joining a unique group of athletes. He became the fifth boy in state history to win four individual events at one group meet.
Mclaughlin didn’t compete in four events for the personal glory. Instead, it was an unselfish gesture for his team. The Vikings needed McLaughlin’s points in order to capture the team title.
“He’s not just a track kid, he’s a team guy,” Union Catholic coach Mike McCabe said. “I don’t think anyone wants to do four events, but he knew it was an opportunity for the team to win. It was a sacrifice. That’s what to me sets him apart.”
It’s one of the many reasons why McLaughlin is the Courier News Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
“It gets a little bit crazy when you start doing four events per meet,” McLaughlin said. “It was good though. We needed the points. I did it for the team.”
McLaughlin narrowed that down to two events at the Meet of Champions. Once again, his selfless character chose to help the 4×400 team claim gold. The assembly came in with the third fastest qualifying time after running at the Non-Public A meet without McLaughlin. With McLaughlin in the lineup, it was a different outcome. His 46-second anchor leg clinched the gold medal.
The senior also won his first individual outdoor Meet of Champions title. The Dunellen resident won the 400 meter hurdles by running a 51.93.
“I think he wanted to win his own individual event for sure, but he anchored three in a row 4×400 Meet of Champions relay teams,” McCabe said. “That’s a pretty special thing. He said to me at one point ‘I get to help these guys have an opportunity.’ That sets the tone going years forward.”
McLaughlin suited up in the Union Catholic uniform for the last time at the New Balance National Championships in North Carolina. He finished in second place in the 400 hurdles with a time of 50.20, which is the New Jersey state record.
He also anchored the 4×400 relay team as they grabbed a victory in 3:12.14.
Now that his highly decorated high school career is over, McLaughlin is often asked “how does it feel to accomplish what you have?”
He quickly follows up the question with a one-word answer, “exhausting.”
He will now take his talents to Ann Arbor to compete at Michigan. He leaves behind numerous accomplishments at Union Catholic, including the most important to McLaughlin, the Vikings becoming a state power and winning three straight Non-Public A titles.
“Watching the seniors when I was a freshman just struggle to win a 4×400 at Meet of Champs, and now winning states and group meets, I think it was cool to see the transition and progress we made,” he said.