Keep an eye on the Group 1 intermediates Friday afternoon at the South Jersey sectionals a Egg Harbor. It should be very fast.
Chris Mesiano of Schalick is the favorite and will be trying to become the first ever to win three straight SJ-1 intermediates. He won in 2013 in 57.36 and last year in 55.7.
Mesiano ran a big PR of 53.83 last week at the Tri-County Championships, the No. 2 time in New Jersey, behind only Union Catholic’s Taylor McLaughlin (51.92) and the No. 1 time among all New Jersey juniors and all South Jersey athletes.
Mesiano’s time is second-fastest in the last 10 years by a South Jersey Group 1 athlete, just 1-100th of a second behind the 53.82 run by Penns Grove’s Stephon Bell when he won the 2010 state Group 1 title. The fastest Group 1 hurdler in state history is the legendary Fred Sharpe of Paulsboro, who ran 51.62 at the 1997 Meet of Champions.
Nobody has run under 55 seconds at the SJ-1 intermediates since Palmyra’s Will Brown ran 54.8 in 2005. Brown went on to win the national scholastic title in the high hurdles a year later and was a two-time national high hurdles for Montclair State.
Burlington City’s Bryan Smith (54.3 in 2001) and Sharpe (53.0 in 1997) are the only other runners to break 55 in Group 1.
Mesiano will also be trying to become the first South Jersey hurdler in any group since Dwight Ruff of Camden to win three straight sectional titles in the intermediates. Ruff won SJ-3 from 1999 through 2001 (53.2, 52.4, 51.0) on his way to becoming a multiple All-America at Florida.
Mesiano just broke 55 seconds for the first time earlier this month with a 54.74 at the Salem County meet on his home track at Schalick. His PR coming into the season was 55.59 from last year’s state meet, when he was second to Verona’s Chris Sweeney, who was also credited with a 55.59.
Other than Sharpe and Bell, the only New Jersey Group 1 hurdlers in the last 10 years faster than what Mesiano ran at the Tri-County meet are John Porteous of Wood-Ridge (52.93 at the 2011 Meet of Champions) and Dylan Capwell of Hopatcong (52.43 at the 2013 M-of-C).
What makes this year so unusual is that there is some depth in the South Jersey Group 1 intermediates field.
Riverside’s Michael Ramos has been PR’ing regularly and could push Mesiano Friday afternoon.
How far has Ramos come in the last year? His PR as a sophomore was 58.53 at the County Open, and he’s lowered that in each of his last four major races:
Ramos is the No. 3 Group 1 runner in the state behind Mesiano and Raymund Clark of Roselle (54.46) and the No. 10 junior overall in the state.
Here’s a look at every runner since 1985 to win the South Jersey Group 1 400-meter intermediates:
2014 Chris Mesiano (Schal.) 55.71
2013 Chris Mesiano (Schal.) 57.36
2012 Sam Maniglia (P.G.) 56.60
2011 Shane Shanahan (P.G.) 55.1
2010 Stephon Bell (P.G.) 55.63
2009 Ali Ejaz (Glass.) 56.60
2008 Stephon Bell (P.G.) 57.08
2007 Keenan Cromartie (P.G.) 56.59
2006 Will Brown (Palmyra) 55.65
2005 Will Brown (Palmyra) 54.8
2004 William Barnes (Salem) 56.41
2003 Corey Crawford (Pennsville) 56.7
2002 Jason Alm (Bordentown) 57.2
2001 Bryan Smith (Burlington) 54.3
2000 Bryan Smith (Burlington) 55.7
1999 Dave Lowden (Pitman) 56.4
1998 Marcus Dowe (Penns Grove) 56.2
1997 Fred Sharpe (Paulsboro) 53.0
1996 Fred Sharpe (Paulsboro) 55.2
1995 Kevin Blakemore (Burl. Twp.) 55.6
1994 Tivon Silva (Penns Grove) 55.9
1993 Gerrit Kemps (H’field) 55.7
1992 Brian Davis (Maple Shade) 56.4
1991 Brian Davis (Maple Shade) 58.0
1990 Byron Pugh (Haddon Twp.) 57.9
1989 John Rowarnd (Audubon) 57.1
1988 Matt Moore (Palmyra) 55.6
1987 Mike Williams (Kingsway) 56.1
1986 George Bland (P.G.) 56.1
1985 Winston Henry (Florence) 57.3
Order of events, group breakdowns and much more are listed in the spring track regs on the NJSIAA web site. You can link to it here.