2023 Indoor Nationals a Huge Success!
Written by: Jim Lambert
Union Catholic’s track and field teams displayed its superior firepower and remarkable depth of talent to the rest of the country when the Vikings produced several eye-popping results at the New Balance National Track and Field Championships this past weekend in Boston.
The Vikings, led by triple All-American Taylor Cox, produced an astounding 17 All-American finishes, captured two national titles, broke two state records, and smashed four county records at the four-day meet.
The national championships for UC came in the girls shuttle hurdles and the boys 4xmile relay.
In the girls shuttle hurdles, the Vikings, despite missing star senior Ajanae Thompson (sore hamstring), still finished first when senior Alexandra Bonn, freshman Ebony Turner who did a great job stepping into the lineup for Thompson, junior Leah Gould, and sophomore Taylor Cox ran 33.50. Cox also earned All-American honors in the 4×200 relay, and in the 60 hurdles where she placed fifth in 8.47, No. 4 in N.J. history.
In the boys 4xmile, Union Catholic won a thriller over Marlington of Ohio, 17:34.17 to 17:34.29.
Senior Caudell Cajuste led off with a 4:28.13 for UC, and then junior Jimmy Wischusen, who was fighting an illness, spilled everything he had in his tank to bring UC from sixth to first with a 4:23.44 carry. Sean Wilson, a junior who was running on the big stage for the first time,split 4:25.12 and made a big move over his final lap to regain the lead for the Vikings, giving the baton to senior Ryan Cichocki with about a three-meter lead Cichocki, running anchor for the first time in his career, showed a lot of guys when he split a big PR of 4:17.49. Cichocki diug down deep over the final 100 meters to outkick the hard-charging anchor from Marlington.
The state records came in the girls 4×200 and 4×800 relays.
For the second time this season, UC 4×200 broke the New Jersey record as the Vikings burned a 1:38.60 to place fourth. Union Catholic’s all-underclassmen quartet consisted of sophomore Taylor Aska (23.41), junior Leah Gould (26.15), freshman Natalia Thompson (25.10), and sophomore Taylor Cox (23.95), who combined to break the state record of 1:38.78 that UC set last month when it finished second at the Millrose Games at the NY Armory. Thompson came up with a clutch performance as she took the place of Ajanae Thompson, out with a sore hamstring.
Prior to this season, the state record in the 4×200 was 1:38.99, which set by Columbia when it finished first at the Millrose Games in 2014.
The greatest performance of the weekend by the Vikings and one of the best in state history came on Sunday when the girls 4×800 stopped the clock at 8:48.68, which smashed the state record ad is the second fastest time in U.S. high school indoor history. UC placed second to Cuthbertson of N.C., who stopped the clock at 8:48.02 to set the new national record.The previous national indoor record of 8:51.93 was set last year by Ann Arbor of Michigan when it won the NB National title at the NY Armory. Union Catholic’s 8:48.86 also shattered its own state record of 8:53.69 that it ran to place second to Ann Arbor last year.
The splits for Union Catholic were 2:15.47 for senior Maameyaa Nyinah, 2:10.61 for junior Peyton Hollis, 2:14.00 for freshman Jimmiea King, and 2:08.75 for Kaleigh Gunsiorowski. The splits by King and Gunsiorowski were huge PR’s.
Looking ahead, the outdoor national 4×800 record is 8:43.12, which was set by Eleanor Roosevelt of Maryland at the 2008 Penn Relays. That record could go down if Cuthbertson and Union Catholic square off as expected at the Penn Relays next month.