The Gatorade State Girls Track & Field Athletes of the Year were selected based on athletic production and impact in the 2015-16 season. Each winner also demonstrated high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership.
For the complete list of Gatorade State Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year winners, click here.
THE WINNER: Sydney McLaughlin
School: Union Catholic (Scotch Plains, N.J.)
Athletic achievement: The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year, McLaughlin won the 400-meter intermediate hurdles with a time of 54.46 seconds at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor championships, breaking a 32-year-old national prep record set by former U.S. Olympian Leslie Maxie in 1984. She eclipsed the previous record by a yawning 0.74 seconds. McLaughlin swept the 400-meter dash in 51.87 seconds and the 400-meter hurdles in 56.23 at the state Meet of Champions this past season. She also ran the second leg of the winning 4×400-meter relay quartet, which broke the tape at the MOC in 3:46.68. In addition, McLaughlin swept the 400 (52.44) and the 400 hurdles (57.37) at the Non-Public A group championships, leading the Vikings to the title as a team. Her 400-meter dash time at the Meet of Champions broke her own state record and ranked No. 1 among U.S. prep competitors in 2016 at the time of her selection. The 400 clocking was the 18th-fastest 400 in U.S. prep history. McLaughlin’s historic 50.93 auto-timed 400-meter split at NBNO anchored Union Catholic’s national prep record-breaking Swedish medley relay time of 2:07.99. She also owned the nation’s No. 11 time in the 200-meter dash (23.53) at the time of her selection.
Academic excellence: McLaughlin has maintained a 3.55 GPA.
Exemplary character: A volunteer for the Central Jersey Chapter of Hope Worldwide, McLaughlin has participated in multiple community service projects throughout Perth Amboy, including distributing fire safety and disaster relief information to residents on behalf of the American Red Cross. She has also donated her time to Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts in Toms River, especially the cleanup of Cattus Island Park. In addition to serving as a soup kitchen staffer and as part of a teen outreach project in association with her church community, McLaughlin has assisted at a local youth track event as a meet official. The founder of her school’s Juggling Club, she volunteered at an area juggling camp last summer.
“She runs from the beginning to the end of each and every event and achieves a consistency of performance that makes her invaluable on any team,” said Walter Anderson, head coach at rival Camden Catholic High. “She is a catalyst. The other members of her team catch fire from her. Because of her enthusiasm and dedication, her teammates emulate her, and the team as a whole is infected with her spirit. She is the spark that ignites the roaring fire, and others cannot help but be warmed by her flame.”
THE FUTURE: McLaughlin will begin her senior year of high school this fall.