We got a little sidetracked by the Olympic Trials, but there’s a lot more to wrap up from the 2021 high school season, and we’ll start with Willingboro’s Malachi James, who capped a terrific freshman season with two top-8 finishes at the M-of-C.
James ran a PR 10.76 in the 100 trials at South Plainfield before placing fifth in the final with a 10.84, and he ran eighth in the 200 in 22.07. James ran 21.82 earlier this year.
James finished the year as the No. 15 freshman nationally in the 100 and 14 in the 200, according to the MileSplit database.
He’s the first freshman ever to place in the top-10 in the Meet of Champions in both the 100 and 200.
His 5th-place in the 100 is the highest by any South Jersey freshman in any event at the M-of-C since 2012, when Dominique Irons of Haddon Heights was second in the triple jump.
The last freshman to medal in the 100 was Camden’s Jamar Ervin in 2000, when he set a national freshman record of 10.35 that still stands.
Ervin, like James, was coached by Martin Booker.
James is the fastest New Jersey freshman in the 100 since Ervin 21 years ago. A few freshmen have run faster in the 200 – Shamali Whittle of Hamilton North ran 21.75 just two years ago (and doubled the M-of-C sprints this year with 10.55 and 20.95).
It’s not clear what the South Jersey 200 freshman record is. James likely already has it. The MileSplit database goes back 20 years and doesn’t show anyone faster than James’ 21.82. Ervin didn’t run many 200s and never went under 22 seconds. Burlington’s Brondon Jenkins won a state Group 1 title in the 200 as a freshman in 1993 in 22.26 – a year later he ran 21.46 and won the M-of-C while attending Delran. But it looks like 22.26 was his fastest time in 1993.
The last freshman in the top-eight at a M-of-C in the 200 was Washington Township’s Clayton Crosse, who was eighth in 2015 in 22.27.
Including converted hand times, James’ 10.76 is No. 12 in Burlington County history and fastest by a Willingboro sprinter since 1986, when Kenny Reynolds and Malik Crawford both ran hand-timed 10.5s, which converts to 10.74, or slightly faster than James ran in the M-of-C trials.
His 200 time is fastest by a Willingboro sprinter since Antonio Abney ran 21.75 in 2007.
James is the No. 3 New Jersey returner for 2022, behind two current juniors – Whittle and Fitzroy Ledgister of St. Peter’s Prep of Jersey City, who ran 10.60 at the South Hudson Championships in Kearney. He’s the No. 8 returner in the 200 and shares the No. 1 spot in South Jersey with Pennsauken sophomore Ejani Shakir, who also ran 21.82.