McCombs’ legend grows with MOC title


Staff Writer

MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Old Bridge’s Bryant McCombs won the 400-meter title at the Meet of Champions on June 8, and will look to add a national title to his résumé this weekend in North Carolina. MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Old Bridge’s Bryant McCombs won the 400-meter title at the Meet of Champions on June 8, and will look to add a national title to his résumé this weekend in North Carolina. The top high school track and field stars in the state converged on South Plainfield on June 8, as the Meet of Champions served as the season’s final chance to demonstrate individual prowess.

Only a handful of local athletes qualified for the meet, but none faced higher expectations than Old Bridge speedster Bryant McCombs.

The Knight junior has been making headlines all season with his exploits in both the 200- and 400-meters, and the MOC provided the final stage (at least in New Jersey) for McCombs to perform.

Needless to say, he did not disappoint.

McCombs broke the Middlesex County record with a 46.94, besting the old mark of 47.19 held by Metuchen’s Tyrone Ross. It was also the 12th-fastest time run in state history.

He entered the race as the favorite and wasted no time in showing why, dusting the field out of the blocks en route to winning the MOC title.

And Old Bridge head coach Jack Campbell says the best is yet to come.

“He hasn’t really been pushed in New Jersey,” he said. “So, we don’t really know how fast he can go.”

This weekend, McCombs will head down to Greensboro, N.C., to take part in the Nike Nationals, where he will face the top 400-meter runners from across the nation.

“He ran his fastest race of the season at the MOC, and now he’s going to face a step up in competition,” Campbell said.

So what should we expect from McCombs this time around?

“He’s pretty amazing,” Campbell said. “I wouldn’t count him out. But if he can finish in the top three or four, he’ll be in pretty good company.”

From there, McCombs may head out to Carson, Calif., to compete for a spot on the Junior National team.

According to Campbell, he should qualify for the meet, having already run under 47 seconds at the MOC.

“If he’s qualified and entered, he’ll head out there,” Campbell said. “Out there he’d be racing against 17- to 20-year-olds, so that would be a great test, facing college guys rather than just high school athletes.”

At this point in his career, the sky appears to be the limit, though Campbell insists that McCombs has managed to stay grounded.

“It’s just so impressive to watch him race,” the coach said. “He’s very smooth and very strong, and he rises to every challenge. He’s just outstanding. I can’t say enough about him.

“And he’s wonderful to coach,” he added, proving his point. “He’s very receptive to everything we talk about and works very hard. He’s just getting better and better.”

Having already cemented his status as the top track performer in Old Bridge’s history — no small feat when you consider the success that program has enjoyed over the years — McCombs is quickly leaving his mark on the state.

“He’s the best, on the track anyway, that we’ve ever had at Old Bridge,” Campbell said. “He’s blown away all the school records in the 200 and 400, as well as the county records in both events; he’s run the fifth-fastest time in state history in the 200, and he ran a 47.37 indoors at the Armory [in Jersey City], which was the fastest a junior ever ran indoors in high school.”

And while track aficionados around the state have been appreciating his abilities for a few years now, his reputation is spreading well beyond New Jersey.

“The coach from Texas A&M flew in to meet with him in April, and he’s been receiving mail from many of the major Division I track powers for awhile now,” Campbell said. “He gets a lot of mail.

“And he’s still got another year.”

The sky certainly is the limit.

Less than 40 minutes after winning the 400, McCombs came back to compete in the 200-meter dash, but struggled out of the block and was never a factor.

JFK-Paterson’s Shaquan Brown, also a junior, won the event in 21.23, with McCombs finishing fourth in 21.62. McCombs then came back later in the meet to participate in the 4×400 relay, where his 46.3 split led the Knights to a third-place finish.

Sophomore Allan Lunkenheimer, junior Paul Racioppi and sophomore Nick Carbone combined with McCombs to finish the event in 3:17.60, about four seconds behind the winning team from Camden (3:13.5).

Lunkenheimer also competed in the 400, where he finished 23rd in 50.88, while senior Chris Bezeg took 15th in the 1,600 (4:28.24), which was won by Colts Neck’s super sophomore Craig Forys, who set a new sophomore national record in 4:11.27.

Old Bridge’s Matt Ciambrello took 27th in the 3,200 (10:02.26), while another blossoming junior, Jamaar Figueroa, took fourth in the discus with a throw of 169-01, a personal best. Campbell was impressed with Figueroa’s effort at the MOC, and much like McCombs, considers the junior to be an athlete who’s development and progress is obvious.

“As a sophomore, he threw 145 feet, and at the MOC he threw 169-1,” Campbell said. “That’s quite an improvement. He’s a big kid who is very talented, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do as well.”

Campbell also pointed out the work that weight coaches Bob Weiss and Mike Corrigan have done with Figueroa as a reason for his progress.

“Our weight coaches had a great year with all of our guys,” Campbell said.

Junior Ken Cardullo took 21st in the javelin for the Knights with a distance of 159-09.

Among the other local boys to shine at the MOC were South Brunswick’s Yemi Ayeni, who defended his discus title with a distance of 190-9, and also took second in the shot put (57-05.5); South River senior A.J. Parillo, who put a cap on a stellar career with a fourth-place finish in the long jump, landing a jump of 22-10.75 feet (Morristown’s Shaun Adain won at 23-09); East Brunswick’s Stephen Schreyer, who took 15th in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 13 feet; and Spotswood senior Peter Duffy, who took 29th in the shot put with a distance of 45-09.

Sayreville sophomore Lynn Mayer was the top local girl performer, as the Bomber took fourth in the high jump, clearing 5-4. Haddon Heights’ Briana Gray won the event, beating two other competitors at 5-6 on fewer misses.

In the girls triple jump, Old Bridge junior Brittany Gibbs jumped 36-1, good enough for eighth place, while St. John Vianney sisters Jackie (35-00), a senior, and Danielle Christie (30-09), a sophomore, finished in 12th and 32nd, respectively.

Vianney senior Jen Therkorn also performed well, finishing in 11th place in the 800 with a time of 2:17.02, while Old Bridge junior Cristine Marquez took 14th in the 400 (57.92). The Old Bridge girls 4×400 quartet of freshman Sylvia Pilawa, sophomore Nailah Pile, Gibbs and Marquez also fared well, taking ninth at 3:55.21.