Moorestown grad Zion Howard ran a near-PR 21.53 into a headwind in the 200-meter dash this past weekend at the USATF Junior Nationals in Bloomington, Ind.
Howard, who recently completed his freshman year at Moravian, was one of only two NCAA Division 3 sprinters in the field and finished ahead of the other, Rodrick McMiller of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Howard, racing in the second of four heats, missed qualifying for the final by less than half a second.
Last month, Howard ran 21.42 into a 1.7 meters-per-second wind to place fourth at the Division 3 nationals in La Crosse, Wisc. That earned him All-America honors. McMiller won that race in 21.17.
The race at USATF juniors capped a massive breakthrough season for Howard, whose high school best at 200 meters was a a pedestrian 22.32 for fifth place in the South Jersey Group 3 sectionals last spring.
Think about how far Thomas came this past year.
His greatest success in high school came in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, an event he won last year at the Burlington County Open and placed third at sectionals in 56.33.
He never placed higher than fifth at sectionals in the 200 and never even raced the event at the county meet. His best finish in the Liberty Division meet in the 200 was an eighth in 2016.
And now he’s put together back-to-back meets with 21.42 and 21.53.
Thomas’s improvement has been equally astounding in the 100, where he had a PR of 11.69 in high school — from a 17th-place finish at 2016 sectionals — but ran as fast as 10.67 this past spring at Moravian, which is located in Bethlehem.
Thomas was the No. 6 freshman in Division 3 in the 100 and No. 2 in the 200 (behind McMiller).