South Brunswick runners Liggins, Ray win group championships

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Last winter, Miles Liggins ran in one winter track event. He joined the South Brunswick High School team during the season after leaving the school’s boys’ basketball program.

One year later, Liggins is an NJSIAA Group 4 champion.

The senior won the 800-meter run on Feb. 15 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River, finishing in 1:55.34.

In 2018, Sabrina Ray was already an established pole vaulter. The South Brunswick standout triumphed in the event at the Group 4 championship last February.

A year later, Ray is still a champion pole vaulter. The senior repeated at the Group 4 championship on Feb. 15 in Toms River, posting an 11-0.

“Miles has been awesome all season,” said South Brunswick boys’ coach Chris Ruskie.

When Sabrina gets in competition, she’s a different person,” said South Brunswick girls’ coach Stefan Moorhead. “She gets on a game face and locks in.” 

In his only race last winter, Liggins ran a 2:18.00, an underwhelming time. The junior wasn’t in track shape yet. At that point, he was only a track athlete in the spring.

But after the 2018 spring season, Liggins committed to running year round. He trained through the summer and ran for South Brunswick’s cross-country team.

When the winter season started, Liggins was ready.

In South Brunswick’s first meet of the season, on Dec. 18 at the Bob James Invitational in Princeton, he finished in 1:59.10. No other runner broke 2:00.00.

The senior also won the Greater Middlesex Conference championship on Jan. 12 and the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional title on Feb. 2, both in Toms River.

At the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on Feb. 23 in Toms River, Liggins placed second, but he accomplished another big goal: breaking the Vikings’ program record of 1:54.29, set by Morgan Murray in 2014. Liggins completed the Meet of Champions in 1:54.10.

“He has accomplished a lot for someone who just became a three season track athlete,” Ruskie said.

“It’s ridiculous,” added Murray, now a sprint coach for the Vikings. “He had the underlying ability. It was about bringing it out.”

Ray, on the other hand, has been committed to her event since her freshman year at the Monmouth Junction school. In the winter of 2015, she voiced interest in pole vaulting. South Brunswick’s pole vault coach, Dan Mura, agreed that Ray could thrive.

“It looked like a lot of fun,” Ray said.

“She’s an all around coordinated athlete, so Dan thought she’d be good candidate for it,” Moorhead said. 

Ray and Mura focused on pole vaulting and the student picked it up quickly. By her junior campaign, she had the two characteristics that all successful pole vaulters need: fearlessness and athleticism.

To launch yourself over a bar, you need to be fearless. To do it successfully, you need to be athletic.

“It’s a challenge because it’s a combination you don’t find in everybody,” Ruskie said. 

“I love a thrill,” Ray said. “I want to go sky diving, bungee jumping. I have a whole bucket list of thrills in my head.”

Ray sought a thrill and became a champion. This season, like Liggins, she also won the state sectional title in her event. The senior finished fourth at the Meet of Champions on Feb. 23.

Both runners have been in contact with Division 1 college coaches. Liggins definitely wants to run in college, too. Murray expects him to take another leap forward.

“The crazy part is he’s got a ton more potential,” Murray said of Liggins. “He’s not even on a college regimen yet.”

Ray plans on focusing on academics, but pole vaulting on the side if she can. Her high school GPA is over a 4.0 in honors and advanced placement courses.

In college, Ray wants to major “in something biological,” she said.

“The sciences intrigue me,” she added.