Boys track & field: Distance runners to watch as 2021 outdoor season begins –

Boys track & field: Distance runners to watch as 2021 outdoor season begins

High school track and field returns to some level of normalcy this spring after last year’s outdoor season was canceled entirely and the pandemic forced teams to reshape their seasons in cross country and winter track.

But that’s all in the rear-view mirror now, and it’s time to get ready for high school track and field’s long-awaited return in New Jersey.

So to get you ready, here are 10 distance runners to keep an eye on this season.

While some athletes saw limited action this winter, it’s been more than 600 days since most competed on a full-time basis during the 2019 outdoor season. We’re expecting many breakout performances this spring, but for the sake of this preview, we chose 10 runners, some of the best New Jersey has to offer, based on success in previous years.

If you need any more proof that Barna’s ready for a big outdoor season, look what he did in March. Barna ran 4:14.22 and finished fourth in the championship mile at a prestigious national meet in Myrtle Beach. The Ridge junior was also a bronze medalist at the Holmdel Invitational and earned First Team All-State honors in cross country after blitzing Holmdel Park in 15:48.

Although the indoor season was mostly a wash, Bogdan made a few races meaningful. He ran a career-best 9:08.22 at the Ocean Breeze Invitational in Staten Island, N.Y. and also competed at indoor nationals in February, running the two mile in 9:16.60. A North Carolina State commit, Bogdan was one of New Jersey’s best in cross country. He finished second at the Holmdel Invitational when he ran a career-best 15:40 through the famous Monmouth County course.

Cherokee’s Ethan Wechsler and Southern’s Jackson Braddock near the end of the Group 4 race at the South Jersey Sectional cross country meet at Delsea High School. Franklinville, NJ. Saturday, November 9, 2019.David Gard | For NJ Advance Media

Braddock has already broken nine minutes in the 3,200, a feat that generally distinguishes New Jersey’s best distance runners. In fact only four runners since 2000 have gone faster than Braddock in the eight-lap race, according to MileSplit. Braddock, a University of Virginia recruit, ran 8:54.02 to win the 3,200-meter title in August at the Music City Distance Carnival in Nashville, Tenn. He returns to racing in New Jersey chasing records this spring.

DeSousa has vastly improved from the last time we saw him in on an outdoor track in 2019. This fall, DeSousa emerged as CBA’s top runner in cross country and recently ran 4:18.39 to win the 1,600 at the Shore Coaches Indoor Championships.

Unlike some other top distance runners, Klanke is the only runner on this list to medal at the outdoor Meet of Champions in the 1,600 or 3,200. He did it as a sophomore when he finished fourth in the 1,600 in 2019. As a junior, Klanke set the Hudson County record in cross country when he ran 15:19.90. He’ll continue his career next year at the University of Pennsylvania.

Langon was the freshman national champion in the mile the last time there was an outdoor season, and even as a rookie, he was stride for stride with the best in New Jersey. Langon ran a personal-best 4:17.57 in the 1,600 to place third in a loaded race at the Skyland Conference meet as a freshman. Now an upper classmen, we’ll see just how much time Langon can drop.

He’s another mid-distance standout wearing the black and white stripes from Old Bridge. Despite being one of New Jersey’s best in the 800 the last few years, he’s yet to win a Meet of Champions title. He’s been right there every season, however, taking fifth outdoors as a sophomore and finishing second and fourth indoors. He’s run a 1:52.60 outdoors in the two-lapper and also owns a personal best of 49.09 in the 400. He’ll run for Georgetown next year.

In the Non-Public A boys 800 meter run, Elijah Brown of Union Catholic (right) placed first, Tim McInerney of CBA was second and UC’s Myles Plummer (left) was third at the South Jersey Non-Public track and field sectionals on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comAndrew Mills | NJ Advance Media

A junior, Plummer has incredible range and doesn’t miss a step whether it’s the 400 or 5,000 meters in cross country. As a sophomore, he won a silver medal at the indoor Meet of Champions when he ran 4:18.99. He’s run a personal best 1:55.52 outdoors in the 800, and he did that as a freshman in 2019.

Polam took top honors in cross country when he won the Holmdel Invitational in 15:32. He’s run 9:09.54 in the 3,200 and will try to be at his best once again when the NJSIAA postseason rolls around in June. He’ll continue his career at the University of Pennsylvania.

He’s athletic enough to go 42-8 in the triple jump and run 1:56.21 in the 800. Roberts represents the middle-distance group here as a Meet of Champions medalist in the 400 and also one of New Jersey’s top returners in the half mile. Oh and he’ll, be a points-grabbing machine with his versatility in the jumps.

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Patrick Lanni may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PatLanniHS and like his Facebook page.