A look at the top freshmen in South Jersey during the 2020 indoor season shows just how talented Pennsauken’s Class of 2023 is.
But even though Pennsauken athletes dominate this list, there were plenty of other promising freshmen that competed in South Jersey this winter.
Here, with a tip of the hat to the New Jersey MileSplit database, is a look at the top South Jersey freshmen boys this year. We’ll take a look at the girls list tomorrow!
Later in the week, I’ll have the all-time South Jersey freshmen boys and girls lists as well!
As always, please let me know of any errors or omissions in the comment’s section and we’ll get ’em fixed right quick!
55-METER DASH: Pennsauken’s Ejani Shakir ran 6.72 in the finals of the Group 55 at the South Jersey Group 3 sectionals, where he placed third, behind only seniors Caleb Nartey of Hammonton (6.68) and Jaden Stanley of Absegami (6.70). Shakir was also the No. 3 freshman in the state
200-METER DASH: Shakir was also the top 200 runner in South Jersey and also in the state with his 22.69 for 12th at the Meet of Champions. He’s the only freshman who was under 23 seconds in New Jersey this year, and he was No. 7 in the country according to the MileSplit database. He was also No. 2 overall in South Jersey, behind only Millville junior Elias Rivera, who ran 22.47 and finished two spots ahead of Shakir at the Meet of Champions. That 22.69 is fastest by a South Jersey freshman in at least 10 years.
300-METER DASH: Pleasantville’s Xander Roberts ran 37.35 at the New Balance Games in January, which also made him the top freshman in the 300 in New Jersey. Roberts also ran as fast as 53.74 in the 400
400-METER DASH: More Pennsauken! Bryce Tucker focused on the 800, but he did run a few 400s and went as fast as 52.41 in his only 400 that wasn’t on the Bennett Center track. That came early in the season at the Hispanic Games at the Armory and made him the No. 3 freshman in the state, behind Matthew Griffin of Whippany Park (51.78) and Andre Pearson of North Brunswick (52.18). Williamstown freshman Mark Williams (52.68), Wilson freshman Premier Wynn (52.88) and Tucker’s freshman teammate and classmate, Kahlil Ali (52.96), also ran sub-53.
600-METER RUN: The 600 was once a staple of indoor track meets – back in the 300, 600, 1,000 days —but it’s only run at a few meets anymore. Willingboro’s Rashad Darian put together a good one at the New Balance Games at the Armory, running 1:27.12, fastest in the state this year and No. 3 nationally.
800-METER RUN: You can find more about Bryce Tucker’s remarkable state freshman record of 1:56.75 here [https://sjtrackblog.com/2020/03/10/pennsaukens-bryce-tucker-shatters-n-j-800-freshman-class-record-with-mind-blowing-race-at-meet-of-champions/]. Tucker was the fifth-fastest half-miler in New Jersey and No. 12 in the state and fastest freshman in the country, just ahead of Nathan Cumberbatch of Shorewood (Wisc.) High, who ran 1:56.99 at a meet in Lexington, Ky., in February.
1,000-METER RUN: Rancocas Valley freshman Ryan Smith ran 3:00.83 at Ocean Breeze in January in his first and only 1,000-meter foray. He also ran 4:53.87 and 10:19.45, and that 10:19.45 – at sectionals – made him No. 2 in the 3,200 among South Jersey freshmen and No. 6 in the state.
1,600-METER RUN: Staying on the familiar Pennsauken theme … Joel Oquendo ran 4:45.47 at Ocean Breeze, earning the top freshman time by a couple seconds over Highland’s Gavin Gallo, who ran 4;47.35. Oquendo ran sub-4:50 the last four times he raced the 1,600. Oquendo also ran 2:05.89, which made him No. 2 to Tucker in South Jersey and No. 5 in the state, and 10:20.38, which was No. 3 in South Jersey and No. 7 in the state.
3,200-METER RUN: Highland’s Gavin Gallo takes top freshman honors in the 3,200 with a 10:14.01 at sectionals. Gallo was coming off a very good XC season where he ran 17:12 for 19th at sectionals and ran 17:40 at Holmdel at states. He also won the freshman race at the South Jersey Open over 3,200 meters at Delsea. Not far behind was R.V.’s Ryan Smith, who ran 10:19.45 at SJ-4 sectionals.
55-METER HURDLES: You thought Tucker was just a middle-distance runner? He ran 8.01 over the 55-meter highs at the Bubble in February and also placed fourth at sectionals before running a near-PR 8.03 at states. He was by far the top freshman hurdler in the state, with Lakewood’s Menzel Thomas No. 2 at 8.36. According to the MileSplit U.S. data base, Tucker was No. 2 freshman in the hurdles behind only Peyton Jones of Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., who ran 7.79 in a meet in January in Hampton, Va. But that was Jones’ only race under 8 seconds. He’s the fastest South Jersey freshman in at least 10 years.
HIGH JUMP: Three South Jersey freshmen hit 5-6 this winter, including – who else – Pennsauken’s Bryce Tucker. Eastern’s James Heard and Cherry Hill West’s Jacob Carlson. The last South Jersey freshmen over 6-0 were Justyce Pollitt of St. Augustine and Antwan Dickerson of Pennsauken, both in 2010.
LONG JUMP: Top South Jersey freshman in the long jump was St. Augustine’s Dominic Tenuto, who hit 17-6 3/4 at Ocean Breeze last month. Penuto also hurdled, sprinted and ran everything up to the 1,000 this winter, and that 17-6 3/4 came in his only long jump competition of the year.
POLE VAULT: Tough event for freshmen but Xavier Ramos of Vineland was clearly the best this winter, getting over the bar at 9-6 at sectionals, two feet higher than any other South Jersey freshman. He also ran the 55, hurdled and high jumped. That was the best clearance by a South Jersey vaulter since Nico Morales of Delsea hit 10-6 in 2017.
SHOT PUT: Sean Rowand of Delsea hit 35-10 at the Cherokee Throw Down No. 3 in February, earning No. 1 freshman honors by just over a foot over Taiwan Moses Davis of Oakcrest, who threw 34-3 1/2.