Long Branch senior sprinter Miles Shuler refers to it as "The Race: Part Two,'' but before he can get to an anticipated showdown with the state's best in the Meet of Champions next week, he has this weekend's NJSIAA Group II Championships to worry about.
"It's going to be good,'' he said. "Everybody has been talking about this race. Everywhere I go, they're talking about 'The Race: Part Two..' Hopefully we can all put on a show, but first I have some big races coming up this week.''
The Green Wave dynamo is coming off a Central Jersey Group II meet in which he raced to gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dash and even added a first-place finishing in a new event, the 400-meter race, to his list of accolades.
The reigning Meet of Champions winner in the 100, Shuler, a Rutgers football recruit, aims to finish his outdoor track career with two more exclamation points. It begins this weekend, when he will head to Frank Jost Field at South Plainfield High School for the Groups II and III and Non-Public B meet on Friday and Saturday.
"There is going to be a lot of tough competition, and I'm curious to see what my times are going to be at this point of the season,'' Shuler said.
Shuler ran a personal-best 10.39 seconds in the 100 in last year's Meet of Champions, which is the Shore Conference record. This season, his fastest time in his signature event was a 10.77 in the Monmouth County Championships. That time is the second-fastest of any runner in Group II this season behind one of his main competitors this weekend, Snyder's Zamir Thomas, who ran a 10.76 at his sectional meet this past weekend.
"I wasn't really surprised to see that (time by Thomas) because I know I'm going against great competition,'' Shuler said. "(Timber Creek's) Damiere (Byrd) has run some great times, (Oakcrest's Fabian) Santiago has run some great times and Zamir has put up some good times. I knew this was going to come, so I just have to bring my 'A' game.''
The fastest time in the state in the 100 this spring is a 10.36 turned in by Byrd, another football star who is headed to South Carolina. Shuler would not see the likes of Byrd, Santiago or Brick Memorial's Jihaad Howard, who upset him in the 100 at the Shore Conference Championships, until the Meet of Champions on June 9 at Old Bridge High School.
The loss to Howard, who ran a 10.76, was a sign to Shuler that repeating as New Jersey's fastest man would not be an easy task.
"It was a really big wakeup call,'' Shuler said. "I knew that I had to step my game up. I came back and ran a good 200 meters (at the Shore Conference Championships), then went back to my regular training. It's just paying off right now.''
Shuler ran a 10.9 to win the Central Jersey Group II title, took the 200-meter crown in a time of 21.95 and then ripped off a personal-best 49.23 in the 400. He plans on competing in all three events again this weekend.
Thomas will also be his main obstacle to a Group II title in the 200, as Thomas boasts the fastest time in the state among Group II runners this spring with a 21.66 that he recorded this past weekend in the sectional meet. Shuler's time of 21.89 from the Shore Conference meet is second in New Jersey behind Thomas.
The 400 would be gravy, but Shuler does have a chance to medal. The 49.23 he ran this past weekend is the fifth-best time among Group II competitors heading into this weekend.
He also is hoping his senior teammate, Steve Worsley, can grab a medal for himself. Worsley has a chance to finish in the top three in the triple jump in Group II, as his personal-best of 44-11 3/4 ranks fifth among Group II competitors heading into the meet. Advancing to the Meet of Champions would be quite a feat for an athlete who didn't even try the triple jump until this season.
As for Shuler, he is hoping for everything to culminate in one final showdown with the likes of Byrd, Howard, Santiago and more in the Meet of Champions next week. The aim is to build momentum for that race with a strong showing this weekend and cap a brilliant athletic career at Long Branch in style.
"I remember I was a freshman, and in the blink of an eye, I'm a senior and it's coming to a close,'' he said. "It's been a good road, it's been a lot of fun, and I'm really excited to take my talents to Rutgers.''