Here’s how close the Meet of Champions triple jump was:
Going into the final group of jumps, Faith Bethea of Snyder led the competition with a 37-7 jump, Kiley Mironenko of Waldwick was second at 37-5 1/2 and Egg Harbor’s Mariah Stephens was third at 37-3 3/4.
So as they warmed up for the finals, Stephens jumped sixth out of the eight finalists, with Mironenko seventh and Bethea eighth.
With one jump left, nobody had improved on their best jumps of the competition, and Bethea – who already had four jumps over 37 feet – was one jump away from a Meet of Champions title.
Stephens lined up for the final jump of her high school career, and when the official yelled out the measurement – 37-10 1/4 – it put her in the lead.
That was exciting, but there were two jumps to go, and Mironenko and Bethea both had PRs beyond Stephens’ best jump. Mironenko has jumped 37-11 and Bethea – undefeated all year – had a state-leading PR of 39-9.
Mironekno went 36-8 1/4 on her final jump and then it was down to Stephens and Bethea, who is ranked in the top 40 nationally.
Bethea had already jumped 37-7, 37-0 1/2 twice and 37-6 1/4 and when she landed on her final jump of the day she was in almost exactly the same spot as Stephens on her final jump.
Anything from 37-10 1/4 or better gives Bethea the win. Anything at 37-10 or less gives Stephens the win.
The measurement? Would you believe exactly 37-10?
Since Bethea had a superior second jump, a tie would have given her the championship. So Stephens won herself a Meet of Champions by literally the smallest possible margin – one quarter of an inch.
That actually only ties the record for closest Meet of Champions triple jump 1-2 finish in meet history!
In 2002, Ebony Foster of Hillsborough jumped 37-0 and edged Trisha McGowan of Ridgewood by a quarter of an inch. In fact, the top six that year were all separated by just 6 3/4 inches!
As for Stephens, she became the second straight Atlantic County M-of-C triple jump winner. In 2019, Claudine Smith of Atlantic City won. Oakcrest’s Shameka Marshall won the title in 2001, and the only other South Jersey M-of-C triple jump winners are Pennsauken’s Thananya Wooden in 2000 and Jessica Mills of West Deptford in 2005. So three of the five S.J. winners are from Atlantic County.
Bethea and sprinter Lauren Princz, who won the 200, gave Egg Harbor two Meet of Champions after the school produced just one in meet history – Princz in the 200 in 2018.
Incredibly, Egg Harbor is the first South Jersey school in 40 years with two different girls winning a Meet of Champions title in the same year.
The only other school to accomplish that was Willingboro in both 1980 and 1981 with Michelle Glover and Carol Lewis. Glover swept the 100 and 200 in 1980 and 1981 and Lewis the 100-meter hurdles and long jump.