The mile is in good hands in 2022. South Jersey returns five sub-4:20 milers next year and four more who ran 4:24 or faster. It has to be one of the deepest groups of returning milers ever.
Overall, New Jersey returns 14 sub-4:20 milers and 29 sub-4:24 milers. At the Meet of Champions last weekend, 11 of the first 16 finishers were underclassmen, including five of the first seven South Jersey runners.
Going deeper, an incredible 23 underclass South Jersey milers ran sub-4:35, including four freshmen under 4:34.
Next year is going to rock when it comes to the 1,600. Hopefully all 23 of them line up at the South Jersey Invitational, the conditions are perfect, somebody takes it out fast and the whole group runs 4:15 or faster! Hey, ya never know!
Let’s take a look at the fastest South Jersey returners in 2021, a list that begins of course with Meet of Champions winner Kyle Rakitis of Kingsway:
4:08.58: *KYLE RAKITIS, KINGSWAY: Rakitis is undefeated at 1,600 meters this year and never ran slower than 4:12.63, his time when he won states. He’ll run one more 1,600, at the National Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., on July 3. Rakitis is No. 2 in South Jersey history, behind Brett Johnson’s 4:08.51 in 2008 and No. 23 in state history.
4:18.08: *TOBIAS JANSSEN, HADDONFIELD: Janssen focused on the 3,200 at states, but he got down to 4:18.08 when he won the Camden County Championships at Haddon Township in May. He was also under 4:20 at the Haddonfield Invitational in a terrific race that also saw Brady Shute of Woodbury and Josh Forrest go under 4:19.
4:18.59: *JACOB COBB, WEST DEPTFORD: Cobb had a very consistent season in both the 1,600 and 3,200. He ran 9:19.89 early in the season and lowered his 1,600 PR from 4:21.64 at the Haddonfield Invite to 4:19.62 at states to 4:18.59 at the Meet of Champions, where he was the No. 2 South Jersey (and Gloucester County), finisher behind only Rakitis.
4:19.15: *ZEB HINKER, LOWER CAPE MAY: Hinker has always run XC but this was his first season of track, and after a few races in the 4:25-4:30 range he had a breakthrough at sectionals with a 4:22.43, then ran 4:19.37 at states and 4:19.15 for 11th at the Meet of Champions. That’s the fastest time by a Cape May County underclassman since Miles Schoeder of Ocean City ran 4:11.46 in 2010.
4::19.61: **PATRICK DITMARS, CHEROKEE: Ditmars was the top sophomore in the Meet of Champions, placing 14th in 4:20.23. He PR’d at 4:19.61 at states, which made him the No. 2 sophomore in the state, just a fraction behind Ryan Beegle of Chatham, who ran 4:19.50 at sectionals.
4:21.07: *BILLY CLEWELL, CAMDEN CATHOLIC: Clewell ran two PRs in a challenging Meet of Champions double, going 1:58.56 in the 800 – his first time under two minutes – and 4:21.07 in the 1,600 for 16th place overall. He was the No. 11 underclassman in the 1,600 and No. 7 underclassman.
4:21.08: *JAKE BUNIVA, LENAPE: When Buniva ran 4:21.08 at sectionals, it was a 12 1/2-second PR and made him Lenape’s fastest miler since Burlington County record holder Ryan Garvin, who ran 4:11.15 at the 2009 Meet of Champions (as part of a remarkable double with 1:53.84 in the 800 in his final high school race).
4:22.60: *DENNIS FORTUNA, TRITON: Fortuna’s focus this year was the 3,200, and he ran 9:28.26 at the Cherokee Night of Race back in April. But in his one serious foray at 1,600 meters he ran 4:22.60 at the Camden County Championships.
4:23.92: *ANDRE FAIGAL, RANCOCAS VALLEY: That 4:23 at sectionals was a 12-second PR and makes him one of three Burlington County underclassmen under 4:25 this spring.
ALSO UNDER 4:35:
4:25.42 … *Owen Ritti [Ocean City], SJ-3 Sectionals
4:25.68 … *Linden Wineland [Mainland Regional], SJ-3 Sectionals
4:28.69 … *Scott Hubbard [Audubon], SJ-1 Sectionals
4:29.28 … ***Peyton Shute [Woodbury], Group 1 Sectionals
4:30.19 … *Andrew Littlehales [Delsea], Haddonfield Distance Night
4:31.94 … *Ryan Allen [Kingsway], SJ-4 Sectionals
4:32.94 … ***Owen Karcsh [Eastern], Group 4 Sectionals
4:32.95 … *Jeffrey Heineman [Kingsway], Holmdel Twilight
4:32.96 … *Makaio Kelii [Audubon], SJ-1 Sectionals
4:33.16 … **Alex Boyko [Cinnaminson], Haddonfield Distance Night
4:33.84 … ***Jorge Cruz [Wildwood], Group 1 Sectionals
4:34.48 … *Aiden Dickinson [Cherokee], Cherokee Last Chance
4:34.55 … **Cole Knoedler [Highland], Haddonfield Distance Night
4:34.90 … *Justin Penny [Lenape], Wash. Twp. dual meet
*** – freshman in 2021
** – sophomore in 2021
** – junior in 2021