The NJSIAA Track and Field Meet of Champions was slated to be held – weather permitting – Thursday night at Frank Jost Field in South Plainfield, with all the best track athletes in the state converging on the site.
Remarkably, two of the best sprinters who will compete at the Meet of Champions go to schools in the same city, namely Jersey City.
Najee Glass is a sophomore at St. Peter’s Prep and is coming off winning two gold medals at the Non-Public A championships last weekend. Glass won the 200-meter dash in 21.88 seconds and captured the gold in the 400-meter run in 48.07 seconds.
Zamir Thomas is a junior at Snyder High School. At the Group II state championships last weekend, Thomas won the 200-meter dash in 21.49 seconds and the 400-meter run in 48.53 seconds. Thomas also finished second in the 100-meter dash, so he qualified for the Meet of Champions in all three events.
It’s very rare to find two of the top sprinters in the entire state coming from the same county. In this case, here are two that attend schools in the same municipality.
And now, the two will lock horns one more time on the grandest track and field stage in the state. It could very well be that they meet twice in both the 200 and 400.
Thomas promised that he’s going to enter all three of the events that he qualified in.
“I’m going to try to do all three if my legs hold up,” Thomas said. “I’m going to give it a shot.”
But the chances are good that Glass and Thomas will engage in a speed battle twice in South Plainfield with state medals on the line. It has the makings of a classic showdown.
The two competitors are not archenemies. In fact, they both enjoy the competition they have with each other.
“I think it’s both competitive and friendly,” Glass said. “It really does push us both to become better. We joke around a lot with each other, because we’ve now raced each other about 50 or 60 times over the last two years.”
If you do comparative times, Thomas ran faster in the 200 last weekend, while Glass had the upper hand in the 400. Glass is currently the top-ranked 400-meter runner in the state and the top-ranked sophomore in the entire country.
“Zamir’s getting kind of close,” Glass said. “In the 200, he’s real close. The 400 is my best race. But there’s always a contest between us. He’s a very talented guy and he does what he has to do to get ready for the big races. I think I do the same.”
Glass was shooting for a little bit of redemption at the M of C. In the indoor M of C, Glass entered the 400-meter run as the favorite, but was battling a hip injury and finished second.
“I was hurt,” Glass said. “I had the bad hip and it stopped me from running like I’m capable of doing. But now, I feel healthy. I feel good. I’m ready.”
Although the two rivals have never trained together, they remain close.
“I really feel like I’m a better runner because of him,” Thomas said. “It’s better to have that competition all the time. We talk to each other a lot. We communicate on Facebook. We’re close friends. It’s a friendly rivalry, but of course, I want to beat him. I’m going to try to do that.”
Glass feels the same exact way.
“We basically push each other all the time,” Glass said. “It’s a constant battle between us. Sure, it may get intense on the track, but we are friends.”
Glass recently learned that the two have something else in common.
“I found out that my grandmother’s neighbor is Zamir’s uncle,” Glass said. “It gives us a little more closeness.”
“That is true,” Thomas said. “I just found out about it. I never thought about it before. It’s pretty weird.”
Thomas said that he will give his rival and friend a warm greeting when they meet on the track.
“I go up to him, wish him good luck,” Thomas said. “Maybe a little pat on the back for encouragement. But when we get on the track, it’s all business. But it’s all good.”
Glass is trying to become the first Prep athlete to ever win at the Meet of Champions.
“I never knew that,” Glass said. “It would mean a lot to be the first.”
Thomas was reached via telephone Thursday morning and was asked if he was prepared for the challenge.
“I’m ready to go right now,” Thomas said. “I’m ready to run right this second. I’m going to try to take all three.”
And take the head-to-head battle with his close friend and nemesis.
There’s a good thing to it all. Both will get to gear it up again and continue the rivalry next year.
“I can’t wait,” Thomas said. “It will be the same thing all over again. I like it. It makes it fun. I’m glad that he’s going to be around.”
“Maybe we can both win,” Glass said. “How great would that be?”
In honesty, it would be a performance of historic proportions. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.