Northern Burlington High School will be hosting the creme of the crop of New Jersey high school track and field this weekend, as the 2017 NJSIAA Meet of Champions is set for this Saturday. Over 1,000 of the state’s finest young athletes will be competing in the biggest meet of the season, and some of South Plainfield’s own will be looking to take home medals.
Ten athletes from South Plainfield High School will be taking the trip down to Columbus to take part in the meet.
There obviously will be no shortage of gifted and versatile athletes at the Meet of Champions, but few embody those traits like Deshai Smith. The South Plainfield senior has been racking up medals in multiple events all season, and come Saturday he’ll be competing in three; the long jump, the high jump and the 400 meter dash.
The long jump event will feature multiple strong medal candidates and Smith is certainly one of them. A 22-10 mark in the Group II championship last week gave Smith a first place finish and set him up as the third seed in this weekend’s event. The senior Tiger is one of four athletes in the state who have cleared 23 feet during this season; the others are Paterson Kennedy's Jason Thobourne, Brick Township's Ja'sir Taylor and Rancocas Valley junior Iverson Clement.
Smith will enter the high jump event as a second-seed, coming of a 6-06 mark in the Group II meet. Thobourne’s 6-10 mark in the Group IV championship meet makes the Paterson Kennedy senior a clear favorite for the gold, but the race for second and third could be tight. Five jumpers in the meet cleared 6-06, but no jumper besides Thobourne surpassed that.
A 49.85 finish in the Group II meet gave Smith a fourth place finish and made him the 28th seed in this weekend’s event.
Josh Ward will also be looking to take home a medal for South Plainfield. Ward, a senior, earned his way into the Meet of Champions by taking third in the Group II meet’s pole vault competition with a 13-06 mark. Ward will enter this weekend’s pole vault event as the tenth-seed. Ward previously came in second in last year’s Meet of Champions’ pole vault.
South Plainfield will also be represented in the Boys 4x800 Meter Relay, with a team consisting of Alejandro Garcia, Caleb Kuberiet, Keith Lehman, Kyle Sookhu, Ignacio Garcia, Angel Ruiz and Adam Globis. The relay team took fifth in the Group II meet with a time of 8:07.92, which is a school record.
Samantha Pullen will be taking part in the girls long jump competition. Pullen, a sophomore, took seventh in the Group II meet with a 17-00 mark.