Rider freshman Mariah Stephens, who never even broke 15 feet long jumping in high school, is now a conference champion.
Stephens, who graduated this past spring from Egg Harbor Township, jumped a PR 18-5 ¾ Friday at the Armory, winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference long jump title by two inches over top-seeded Kedarjah Lewis of Iona, who was 2nd at 18-3 ¾.
Her previous indoor and overall PR was 18-1 from her first college meet in December at Ocean Breeze.
Before this year, Stephens hadn’t long jumped since the spring of 2018, her freshman year at EHT, when she PR’d with a 14-11 ½ at the Atlantic County Championships at Buena. She went on to place 27th at Group 4 sectionals at Washington Township with a 14-8 ¼.
Stephens never long jumped indoors in high school. She focused at EHT in the sprints, high jump and triple jump and there’s only so much time to focus on each event, and she was a state champion in the triple jump.
On Friday, she moved up to No. 3 in Rider women’s indoor history in the long jump behind only school record older Asia Young, another Atlantic County product, from Holy Spirit, and Dashana Ransome from Irvington. Young jumped 19-8 ¾ in 2018 and Ransome 18-10 ½ in 2013.
Stephens fouled on her first two attempts, and faced with getting no legal marks, she hit her 18-5 ¾ on her third jump. In the finals she opened with jumps of 17-11 and 18-1 ¼ before fouling on her final attempt.
She averaged 18-1 ½ on her three legal jumps, so her average jump Friday was longer than her lifetime best coming into the meet.
Stephens also ran a personal-best 8.86 and placed second in the second of three 60-meter hurdles semifinals. Each winner and the next five-fastest times from three races advanced, and Stephens’ time was fastest of the non-winning times and actually faster than one of the winning times (by two-1,000ths of a second), so she was 3rd-fastest in the field but will be th 4th seed. She’ll run in the hurdles final at 5:25 p.m. Saturday.
Stephens and Rider teammate Genesis Walker from Bordentown both advanced to the final in the 60-meter dash, Walker with a 7.91 and Stephens with 7.92. Freshman Balikis Iyiola of St. Peter’s ran 8.03, missing the final by 9-100ths of a second. (Her first name was apparently mis-spelled in the MileSplit database as Balkis, so we apologize for getting that wrong for the last four years when she was at Willingboro). Walker also advanced in the 200 with a 25.90.
Kingsway graduate Alli Pierontoni, a freshman at Monmouth, placed second in the first section of the women’s mile prelims in 5:01.01, picking up an auto qualifier into Saturday’s final, which is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. Even in a strategic qualifying race, Pierontoni ran just over a second off her PR of 4:59.74, which she ran last month at Ocean Breeze.
Former Atlantic County rivals Diamond McLaughlin of Absegami and Anne Rutledge of Egg Harbor both advanced to the 400-meter dash final.
McLaughlin, a freshman at St. Peter’s, ran an indoor personal-best 58.25, the 3rd-fastest qualifying time, and Rutledge, a freshman at Monmouth, posted an auto qualifier by winning her heat in 1:00.92. McLaughlin’s previous PR was 58.76 earlier this month at Ocean Breeze.
McLaughlin and Rutledge ran 1-2 last spring in the Atlantic County Championships 400 at Buena.
For South Jersey men’s results from the MAAC meet click here.