The Clayton boys didn’t win a state title this weekend. What they did with just five boys is almost as impressive.
The Clayton bus brought five boys to Franklin Township for the state Group 1 meet.
Each of those five boys – Thomas Hampton, TerMeir Hill, Justin Gibson, Dominick Bishop and Dorien DePina – medaled.
And that bus returned to Gloucester County with the second-place team trophy.
Now, that’s incredible.
Clayton might not have the depth to to put together a great dual meet record or win a conference or county title. They were fifth in the Gloucester County Championships and seventh in the Tri-County Conference, and that’s actually pretty impressive considering the Clippers competed in those meets with a total of just 14 boys.
But in big meets? Clayton has some serious firepower up top. The Clippers lost a heartbreaker at the South Jersey Group 1 meet, where they finished one point behind Haddon Township. And this past weekend they went to states and finished second only to a deep and powerful Willingboro team.
It’s the best finish ever at states for Clayton, and it speaks volumes about the coaching staff, the five boys who competed at states and everybody else in the program for sticking with it during some tough times and taking on the best small-school programs in the state and beating all but one of them.
Clayton’s two big guns are senior Thomas Hampton and sophomore TerMeir Hill. They each became Clayton’s first individual state champions in 24 years, since Don Taylor won the shot put with a throw of 51-9 1/2 in 1995. (Before that it was Mike Conover in the javelin with a 198-1 in 1983!)
Let’s take a look at these two and the rest of this remarkable Clayton bunch!
THOMAS HAMPTON: Became the first Clayton boy ever to win two events at a state championship with wins in the 100 in 10.69 and the 200 in 21.76 and made it three gold medals with a leg on Clayton’s winning 400-meter relay team, which went 42.25. Hampton will be the No. 4 seed in the 100 at Meet of Champions and No. 9 in the 200. The Clippers are the No. 5 seed in the 4-by-100. Hampton is Gloucester County’s fastest in the 100 since Glassboro’s James Brown ran 10.47 in 2009. He’s No. 4 in county history in the 100 at 10.60, behind only legendary Bill “Peanut” Gaines, who ran a hand-timed 10.2 for Clearview in 1966, Brown and Washington Township’s Todd Dutch (10.53 in 2001).
TERMEIR HILL: Hill PR’d by more than a foot to win the state Group 1 long jump title with a ridiculous 23-3 jump. That’s the best by a South Jersey sophomore since Mikhail Micheaux of Eastern went 24-2 1/2 in 2012 and makes him the No. 4 seed in the M-of-C. Incredibly, Clayton has now had two 23-foot jumpers in the last three years. Marcus Chambers went 23-0 to place fourth at the 2017 Meet of Champions. Kimere Brown of Penns Grove jumped 23-3 to win Group 1 in 2014, but Hill’s 23-3 matches the longest winning jump at Group 1 states since Devin Jones of Boonton went 23-4 to win in 2010.
400-METER RELAY TEAM: Hampton, Hill and sophomores Justin Gibson and Dominick Bishop ran 42.25, just missing the Group 1 meet record of 42.14 set in 2016 by Jonathan Taylor and Salem. Clayton’s 42.25 is one of the fastest times ever recorded by a New Jersey Group 1 school. I actually couldn’t find any times other than Salem’s faster than Clayton’s. And the Clippers could very well go faster Saturday or at nationals, if they choose to race in Greensboro.
Here’s the all-time Gloucester County 400-meter relay top 10, with Clayton at No. 7:
41.47 … Deptford, 2018
41.55 … Deptford, 2017
42.12 … Deptford, 2016
42.15 … Delsea, 2010
42.17 … Deptford, 2013
42.23 … Delsea, 2019
42.25 … Clayton, 2019
42.27 … Deptford, 2019
42.30 … Delsea, 2007
42.40 … Deptford, 2015
JUSTIN GIBSON: In addition to the relay leg we just referred to, Gibson ran a huge PR of 22.39 to place third in the 200. The sophomore’s previous-best was 22.88 at the Tri-County Championships, so that’s about a half second improvement in the biggest race of the year.
DOMINICK BISHOP: Another sophomore, Bishop also ran on the winning 4-by-100 team.
DORIEN DEPINA: DePina, the No. 12 seed, placed fifth in the triple jump at 43-1 3/4.
It really was an incredible weekend for Gloucester County track. Paulsboro won the girls Group 1 title, the rival Delsea and Deptford boys won the Group 2 and 3 titles and tiny Clayton was second in Group 1. Matter of fact, four of the top nine finishers in Group 1 come from Gloucester County – Clayton in second, Woodbury in third, Pitman in seventh and Glassboro in ninth, all with at least 20 minutes. That’s really amazing.
If the names of DePina, Bishop and Hill seem familiar, they all played on the Clayton basketball team that as a No. 8 seed beat Wildwood to win the 2019 South Jersey Group 1 basketball team, Clayton’s first since 1980 and the days of Granger Hall.
So yeah. These guys are used to defying the odds.