Glassboro junior Elijah Whitaker placed 8th in the state Group 1 meet Saturday, becoming the first Glassboro runner to qualify for the Meet of Champions in 27 years.
Whitaker ran 17:17 in unseasonably warm conditions at hilly Holmdel County Park and earned an auto qualifier as a top-10 finisher.
He ran more than a minute and a half faster Saturday than he ran at last year’s state meet at Holmdel, when he placed 44th in 18:52.
Whitaker finished only 31 seconds behind winner Keanu Ray, a senior from Weehawkin, who ran 16:46, and only 13 seconds behind the first underclassman, Metuchen junior Alex Patelski, who was 4th in 17:04.
Whitaker, the South Jersey Group 1 champ, is the Bulldogs’ first MoC qualifier since Pat Ryan, who placed 15th in the 1995 Meet of Champions in 16:38.
Tom Horne placed 29th in the 1992 race in 16:53, 31st in the 1993 race in 17:10 and 35th in the 1994 race in 17:11. Tim Graves ran 17:14 for 35th in the 1993 race.
Glassboro’s first runner at the Meet of Champions was Josh Davis, who ran 17:36 and placed 78th in the 1984 race.
The Meet of Champions is scheduled for Saturday, with the boys race starting at 11 a.m.