Rowan freshman Rakim Coyle was already in the lead. But he had something special saved for his final jump of the long jump competition Saturday at the New Jersey Athletic Conference championships at Stockton University in Galloway Township.
Coyle, a freshman from Wildwood Catholic, had jumps of 22-6 1/4, 22-7 1/4 and 22-6 1/2 in the trials and went into the finals leading sophomore teammate John Owens of West Windsor-Plainsboro, who had a 22-4 1/2 and a 22-1.
Another Rowan freshman, Cheo King from Woodbury, sat in third with a 22-1 1/2. King has a PR of 22-9 1/2 from his win at the Group 1 sectionals at Egg Harbor two years ago.
Coyle fouled on his first two jumps of the finals, but Rowan still sat 1-2-3. Then, on the final jump of the day, Coyle sailed 23-6, the best jump of his life.
Coyle had a 23-1 3/4 last spring in the Meet of Champions, but his best jump as a collegian before Saturday was 22-3 1/2 at a meet at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., last month.
Then he popped the four best jumps of his college career and the four best jumps of the competition Saturday. He’s the first freshman to win the NJAC long jump competition in 11 years.
Top-seeded George Alexandris of Montclair State, the NCAA Division 3 championships record holder (and a one-time Rowan athlete), scratched.
Coyle’s 23-6 ranks No. 17 in NCAA Division 3 so far this year and second-best among freshmen, behind only Kevon Bouaud of SUNY-Cobleskill, who has a 23-10 to his credit. Alexandris is No. 1 in the country at 24-9 3/4.
Coyle’s 23-6 is the best jump by a Rowan freshman since 2008, when Kyle Hayes from Point Pleasant Boro High went 24-0 3/4 with a legal 0.8 wind at the New Balance Qualifying Challenge at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island in Manhattan.
In all, Rowan went 1-2-3-5-6 in the long jump for 31 team points, with sophomore Frankie Richard of Northern Highlands fifth at 21-11 1/2 and sophomore Zaire Weaver of Passaic County Tech sixth at 21-9 1/2.
Going into Sunday’s second day of activity, Rowan leads Stockton 76-51. The Profs from Glassboro in Gloucester County are seeking their fifth straight team title after The College of New Jersey had won 17 straight.