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Meet The NJ, PA Athletes Crushing The Olympic Trials

Ajeé Wilson, Athing Mu and Curtis Thompson.
Ajeé Wilson, Athing Mu and Curtis Thompson. Photo Credit: filip bossuyt wikipedia/Athing Mu Facebook photo/Curtis Thompson Instagram

A teenage running phenomenon from Trenton smashed a 25-year-old U.S. Olympic Trials record en route to the World Olympics in Tokyo.

Athing Mu is among a half-dozen track and field stars with ties to New Jersey and Pennsylvania who qualified for the Summer Games that begin on July 23.

Mu on Sunday ran 800 meters in a sizzling 1:56.07, the fastest time in the world this year and the second fastest time ever run by an American woman.

Mu attended Trenton Central High but did not compete with the school track team while training for national and international competition. She is completing her freshman year at Texas A&M, where she set national collegiate records in the outdoor 400-meter run and 800-meter run.

“It feels awesome,” Mu said in at a press conference after Sunday's Olympic-qualifying race in Eugene, Oregon. “Honestly, I wanted to break some record. . . . A 25-year-old record is really old. I knew it was within me.”

Mu, who turned professional and signed with Nike last week, is following in the Olympic footsteps, so to speak, of another New Jersey elite runner.

Sydney McLaughlin, 21, of Dunellen in Middlesex County set a world record in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 51.9 seconds shortly before Mu's victory on Sunday to qualify for her second Olympic Games in Tokyo. Also see: 5 Things To Know About NJ Olympian Sydney McLaughlin.

Meanwhile, Ajeé Wilson, 27, of Neptune Township in Monmouth County, placed third in the 800 meters in 1:58.39 to qualify for her second Olympic Games. Wilson holds the American record for 800 meters, having run the race in 1:55.61 in 2016. Wilson graduated from Temple University and trains with the Juventus Track Club in Philadelphia.

Other area athletes qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics include:

  • Curtis Thompson, 26, a Trenton native and graduate of Florence High School in Burlington County, NJ, won his second U.S. javelin title with a throw of 271 feet, 7 inches.
  • Sam Mattis, 27, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and East Brunswick High School in Middlesex County, qualified for his first Olympic team in the discus by tossing it 205 feet, 1 inch.

Amazingly, at least 11 other track and field stars with ties to the region just missed qualifying for the Summer Olympics last week. They include:

  • Chanelle Price, 30, a graduate of Easton Area High School in Northampton County, PA. She has been competing at an elite level for 15 years. Last week marked Price's fourth Olympic Trials. Although she was the oldest half-miler competing in Eugene, Oregon, she placed fifth with a personal-best time of 1:58.73.
  • Allie Wilson, 24, of Wallingford, PA, Delaware County and a graduate of Strath Haven High School) and Monmouth University placed sixth in the 800-meter run of the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1:59.02, a personal best time.  
  • Josh Awotunde, 24, of Franklinville, NJ, in Gloucester County and a graduate of Delsea High School literally missed making the Olympic team in the shot put by three inches. But he still managed to toss the 16-pound shot 71 feet, 8 inches, a personal best.
  • English Gardner, 29, of Voorhees, NJ, in Camden County and a graduate of Eastern Regional High School, advanced to the 100-meter dash finals at the Olympic Trials after sprinting the event in 10.96 seconds. In 2016, Gardner advanced to the 100-meter finals at the Summer Olympics and ran on the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic 400-meter relay team.  
  • Travis Mahoney, 30, of Old Bridge, NJ., in Middlesex County and a Temple University graduate, ran a personal best 8:24.05 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals. That advanced Mahoney to the finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he placed ninth, just eight seconds out of third.
  • Jessica Woodard, 26, of Marlton in Burlington County and a graduate of Cherokee High School threw 60 feet, 3¼ inches in the shot put final. That put Woodard in seventh place at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Her father, Marc Woodard, was a linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1994 through 1996.
  • Sanaä Barnes, 20, a native of Texas and student-athlete at Villanova University, cleared a personal best and college record of 6 feet, 1½ inches in the high jump and placed 11th overall in the final. And she's only a sophomore.
  • Sam Allen, 20, of Woolwich Township, NJ, in Gloucester County and a graduate of Kingsway High School is a "rising sophomore" at Cornell University. Allen placed sixth in the 20,000-meter racewalk with a personal-best time of 1:37.59.
  • Marc Anthony Minichello, 21, who recently completed his junior year at the University of Pennsylvania placed fourth in the javelin with a throw of 251-9. 
  • Nia Akins, 22, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, ran 2:01.09 in the 800-meter trials. The Seattle resident fell during opening lap in the finals, knocking her out of the race. (There were five former or current Penn Quakers competing at the Olympic Trials.)
  • Sam Ellison, 28, of Upper Dublin, PA, in Montgomery County, a graduate of Villanova, ran 1:48.67 in the 800-meter Olympic Trials, and just missed advancing to the final qualifying race.  (Barnes and Ellison were among six current or former Villanova Wildcats who competed at the Olympic Trials..

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