SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- There isn't a trophy or a plaque that is handed to the best combined boys and girls indoor track and field program in the state.
But if there was, a very strong case could be made that it would be awarded to Union Catholic after the remarkable winter campaign turned by the Vikings.
Check out what the UC boys and girls did this past season under Coach Mike McCabe.
The girls went undefeated for the sixth year in a row and were once again the undisputed No. 1 team in the state and one of the top squads in the country.
On its path to perfection, the Vikings captured a state record sixth straight state title, won the State Non-Public Relay Championship for the sixth straight year, the Union County Relays and Union County Track and Field Championships each for a seventh straight time, won two titles at the Meet of Champions, and turned in several of the top performances in the state and in the nation during the winter season.
The UC boys were arguably the No. 2 team in the state this past winter. They finished second at the State Championships, won the Union County Relays for the second straight and the eighth time in 10 years, won the 4x400 relay (the four runners are pictured above) at the Meet of Champions with a record breaking performance, and posted multiple performances that were ranked very high on the state list and national lists.
Coach McCabe feels his combined boys and girls program should be regarded as the best in the state.
"We had a great winter track and field season,'' said Coach McCabe. "Led by an amazing group of seniors, we finished with a bang at the Meet of Champions, and are extremely proud of a total team effort. We believe we have the #1 combined boys and girls track and field team in N.J.! We have a wonderful group of kids!''
Let's take a deep dive into the girls season.
At the state championships, the Union Catholic girls, led by double winner Chi Chi Nkulume, made history by capturing a record sixth straight Non-Public A title with a dominating 85-43 over Paul VI.
UC's six titles in a row is the longest winning streak for a girls team in meet history for all the groups combined. UC had shared the record of five in a row with Science (five straight Group 1 titles from 1989 through 1993), and Columbia (five in a row in Group 4 from 1994 through 1998).
The UC girls were led by Temple-bound Nkulume, who came back from a sub-par race in the 400 (fifth) to win the 55 dash with a PR of 7.16, and then capped off the meet with a 57.8 anchor carry on the winning 4x400 (3:57.82).
Another huge highlight was the performance by Jada Mia Puryear, who broke the school record in the shot put with a second place throw of 38-9 ¾, No. 13 in the state for the season.
Also scoring for UC were Ajanae Thompson, who led a 3-4-5 finish for UC in the 55 HH, Morgan Williams, second in the 800, Abby Granrath, second in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200, Alexandra Kwasnik, second in the HJ, Zamira Ysaac, third in the 800, Isabella Gray, fourth in the vault, Sydney Tucker, fifth in the 55 dash, A'Liyah Thomas, 5th in the HJ, and Sarah Abood, sixth in the 3,200.
At the Meet of Champions at Ocean Breeze, the girls put the finishing touches on a remarkable season by winning the 4x400 relay, picking up a gold medal performance from A'Liyah Thomas, and earning 21 medals at the 52nd annual meet.
The Union Catholic girls continued their incredible dominance by capturing the 4x400 for an unprecedented sixth straight year with a time of 3:51.68, which is No. 4 in meet history, No. 1 for NJ team this season and the seventh fastest time in the nation this winter. UC's time of 3:51.68 was just off the high school facility record run by Benjamin Cardozo of NY in 2016.
Just how impressive is UC's six year winning streak? Well, no girls team has ever won more than two consecutive relay titles at the Meet of Champions, indoors or outdoors.
UC's four runners consisted of freshman Maameyaa Nyinah (59.01), junior Avery Jordan (58.56), sophomore Asydiah Pray-Brown (58.22), and senior Chidumga Nkulume (55.89). Nkulume also placed second in the 400 in 56.50, the third fastest time in the state this season.
Individually, Thomas was her usual spectacular self in the long jump.
Thomas, a junior, entered the meet with the state's top mark, and she left with the gold medal after leaping 18-7 ¼ on her third jump to win the title. Thomas, who soared a NJ#1 18-9 ½ at the Union County Championships at Ocean Breeze, said she always seems to jump her best at Ocean Breeze.
Her mark of 18-7 ¼ was just shy of the meet record of 18-7 ½ set by North Brunswick's Nakaja Weaver.
Thomas was obviously elated with her performance.
"I came into this year with a goal of improving as much as I could with my eye on trying to win a Meet of Champions title as a senior next year,'' said Thomas, who also placed eighth in the high jump at 5-2. "The fact that I won this as a junior is just so exciting. Now my next goal is go for 19 feet.''
In other girls highlights for UC, the 4x800 relay team placed second in 9:22.93, Morgan Williams placed third in the 800 in 2:15.86, Felicia Quainoo finished fourth (36-8 1/2) and Alexandra Bonn was fifth (36-7 ¾) in the triple jump.
In addition to the state leading performances by the 4x400 and Thomas, the UC girls finished ranked No. 1 in the state and the nation in the shuttle hurdles (31.50), No. 2 in the state/No. 19 in the nation in the 4x800 (9:20.86), No. 3 in the state/No. 35 in the nation in the spring medley (4:16.08), and No. 14 in the state in the distance medley relay (12:41.94).
Individually, in addition to Thomas (No. 1 in the state in the LJ), Nkulume was No. 3 in the state in the 400 (56.50), No. 5 in the 55 dash (7.16), and No. 11 in the 200 (25.42). Also for UC, Felicia Quianoo finished the season No. 3 in the state in the triple jump (38-0 ¾), and No. 9 in the 55 hurdles (8.29), Morgan Williams finished the season ranked No. 7 in the 800 (2:15.86), Alexandra Kwasnik was tied for No. 6 in the high jump (5-6), Zamira Ysaac No. 16 in the 800 (2:17.84), and Abby Granrath finished the season No. 18 in the 1,600 (5:08.09).
Now let's drill down on the boys season.
At the Meet of Champions, the 4x400 made history when the Vikings burned a high school facility record and nearly broke the meet record with its winning time of 3:18.78, the fastest time in the state for the season, No. 2 in the country this season and No. 2 in meet history!
It was fourth title in the past seven years for the boys in the 4x400. They also won in 2014, '15, '16.
The 3:18.78 by the Vikings smashed the facility record of 3:19.91 set on Saturday by Huntington at the NY State Championships, and just missed the meet record of 3:18.26 set in 2017 by East Orange.
The race was a battle between Union County rivals as UC edged Union, which ran a US# 3 3:19.09, No. 3 in meet history.
Union led for most of the race, but UC senior Elijah Brown used a huge surge off the final turn to catch Union and deliver the victory.
UC's splits were 49.90 for senior Tyhir Jones, 50.66 for junior Connor Cooper, 49.85 for sophomore Myles Plummer, and 48.27 for Brown.
On the boys side individually at the M of C, Brown, the defending champion in the 800, placed fourth in the 800 in 1:53.26, No. 4 in the state and No. 10 in the nation this season, and Plummer placed third in the 1,600 in 4:18.99.
Plummer's 4:18.99 was the sixth fastest time by a N.J. runner this season, the fastest by a sophomore in the state, and was the fifth fastest time run by a high school sophomore in the country.
At the State Non-Public A Championships, Conor Reilly and Elijah Brown sparkled to lead the boys to a runner-up finish at the Bennett Center in Toms River.
The Lehigh-bound Reilly made history when he won his fourth straight boys pole vault title by clearing 13-6. Reilly went up to 15-3 to try to break his meet record, but couldn't quite get over it. Reilly now has six state titles in his career (four indoors and two outdoors). Reilly's 15-6 clearance at the Lavino Relays is a school indoor record and tied for No. 3 in the state this season.
The George-Mason-bound Brown won the 800 for the second straight year in 1:59.12 and split 49.9 on the victorious 4x400 (3:24.95). Tyhir Jones, Connor Cooper and Myles Plummer joined Brown on the winning 4x400.
Also for the Vikings, Justin Lopez cleared 11-6 to place second in the pole vault, Oluwafemi Asenuga placed second in the hurdles in 7.76 after running 7.68 in the trials, which was the No. 8 time in the state this season. Jones was fourth in the 400 in 50.67, and Plummer placed third in the 1,600 in 4:24.07.
On the local level, the Vikings were dominant.
At the Union County Relays, the Vikings pulled off the team sweep of the championships as the Vikings turned in several eye-popping performances at the Jersey City Armory.
It was the seventh straight title for the Union Catholic girls, who solidified its status as the top team in the state by capturing seven of the eight events, including all six on the track, and smashing two meets records on the way to a 76-32 win over runner-up Scotch Plains-Fanwood. The remarkable total of 76 points by the girls is just four points shy of a perfect score of 80, and two points off the meet record of 78 that UC scored in 2016.
The Union Catholic boys were clinging to a two-point lead on Elizabeth heading into the meet-concluding 4x400-meter relay. But Cooper (54.4), Plummer (52.9), Jones (51.4) and Brown (50.8) came through in the clutch by winning the race in 3:29.76. The victory gave the UC boys 64 points, six more than runner-up Elizabeth, the 2018 champion. Summit and Union tied for third with 26.
The UC boys have now won two straight titles and eight of the last 10!
Another strong performance for the UC boys came in the distance medley relay, when Matt Granizo (3:23.1 1,200), Jonathan Carrion (56.3 400),, Brown (1:59.7 800) and Plummer (4:32.7 1,600) won the boys in NJ#3 10:51.96.
The UC boys also won the SMR, 4x800, and 4x200.
In the SMR, Reilly (23.90 200), Cooper (23.80 200), Jones (51.97 400) and Plummer (1:58.5) combined on the victory in 3:38.44.
Zach Turner (2:10.2), Granizo (2:08.5), Sam Hernandez (2:09.4) and Brown (2:01.5) won the 4x800 in a NJ#9 8:30.21.
Jones (23.1), Cooper (24.2), Reilly (24.2), and Asenuga (23.7) combined to win the 4x200 in 1:35.00.
Jones, a junior who is running indoors for the first time this winter, also ran 8.6 on the fourth-place shuttle hurdle team. Asenuga, in addition to his anchor leg in the 4x200, cleared 6-0 for the runner-up high jump team, and split 7.7 leading off the shuttle hurdles.
In the girls competition, UC senior Kwasnik, in the first indoor meet of her career, cleared a school indoor record tying 5-6, and teamed with Thomas (5-2) for a meet record 10-8 in the high jump. Kwasnik, an All-State volleyball player, has a PR of 5-7 that she jumped to place fourth at the New Balance Nationals last spring.
UC's other meet record came when Morgan Jackson (2:24.5), Maameyaa Nyinah (2:26.3), Asydiah Pray-Brown (2:26.8) and Abby Granrath (2:32.5) won the 4x800 in a meet-record and NJ#3 9:50.70.
The UC girls nearly broke two more meet records.
Union Catholic missed the meet record by .06 seconds in the 4x400 when Aniyah Charles (1:01.2), Pray-Brown (1:02.8), Nyinah (1:00.5) and Zamira Ysaac (1:00.6) won in NJ#2 4:05.73. And the shuttle hurdles team of Ajanae Thompson (7.8), Felicia Quainoo (7.6), Alexandra Bonn (8.0), and Avery Jordan (7.8) and won in 31.50, just .22 seconds off the meet record.
Sydney McDonald (27.0 200), Quianoo (27.5 200), Chi Chi Nkulume (1:00.5 400) and Morgan Williams (2:20.7 800) won the sprint medley for UC in 4:16.08 NJ#1 and US#2.
In the DMR, UC's Ashleigh Patterson (3:58.6), Aniyah Charles (1:01.6), Zamira Ysaac (2:22.7), and Granrath (5:28.7) teamed up to win in 12:51.96.
The Vikings also won the 4x200 in 1:46.52 as Nkulume (26.4), Jordan (26.7), Thomas (26.4), and Thompson (26.9) shared the baton.
At the Union County Championships, the Union Catholic girls continued its dominance with another remarkable performance when the Vikings captured its seventh straight title and the boys finished a very strong second at Ocean Breeze on Staten Island.
In the girls competition, it was all UC as the Vikings rang up 144 points, more than 100 more than runner-up Elizabeth, second with 39.
The UC girls picked up six victories and had several sizzling performances.
Sophomore Abby Granrath was a double winner for UC, junior A'Liyah Thomas led a 1-2-3 finish for UC in the long jump and was her usual splendid all-round self, and Isabella Gray, Chidumga Nkulume, and the 4x400 squad all picked up gold medals for the Vikings.
Granrath, the Union County XC champ this past fall, won the 1,600 in 5:14.27 and the 3,200 in 11:34.21.
Thomas extended her state lead with a PR of 18-9 1/2 to win the long jump, placed second in the high jump (5-4) and was fifth in the 55 dash in 7.48. Gray cleared 10-6 to win the pole vault.
Nkulume won her first county title by crossing first in the 400 in 57.37. She was also second in the 200 in 25.46. And the 4x400 team won in 3:59.59.
Also for UC, Alexandra Bonn finished second in the LJ with PR and NJ#9 17-8 1/2, Sadie Abood placed second in the 3,200 with a PR of 11:39.37, Jada Mia Puryear was second in the shot with a 35-8 1/2.
Ajanae Thompson was fourth in the dash in 7.38 and fifth in the 55 hurdles in 8.85, Morgan Williams second in the 800 in 2:19.61, Zamira Ysaac fourth in the 800 in 2:20.28, and Ashleigh Patterson was fifth in 2:20.52. Felicia Quainoo was second in the 55m hurdles in 8.49, and third in the LJ, and Avery Jordan was sixth in the HH in 8.90. Autumn Barge placed fifth in the girls PV at 7-6, and Sydney McDonald placed sixth in the 200 in 26.21.
On the boys side, UC sophomore Myles Plummer was one of the biggest stars of the meet. He won the 1,600 for the second straight year in 4:25.65, the 800 1:58.40, and placed third in the 3,200.
Senior Elijah Brown also had a big meet.
In the 400, he was fourth with 100 meters to go, but closed fast to rally to win his second straight title in a NJ #3 49.55. Brown also ran on the runner-up 4x400 relay that ran 3:25.53.
Senior Conor Reilly, the outdoor county PV champ last spring, made 14-6 to win the pole vault, and placed fifth in the long jump (20-10).
Tyhir Jones was second in the 400 in 49.73, fourth in the 200 in 22.83, and ran on the 4x400.
Oluwafemi Asenuga picked up 12 points for the Vikings by placing fourth in the high jump (6-0), the long jump (20-11), and the 55 hurdles (7.96).
Also contributing points for the Vikings were Matt Axt, third in the long jump (20-11), Zach Turner, fifth in the 1,600 in 4:37.52, Jayden Mathurin, fifth in the shot put with a monster PR of 44-4 1/4 (nearly four feet better than his previous best), Connor Cooper, was fifth in the 200 in 22.98, and Matt Granizo, sixth in the 3,200 in 10:26.14.