Wildberg Soars to 2nd in Long Jump at MOC As PHS Boys’ Track Enjoys Record Breaking Day
WILD RIDE: Princeton High boys’ track star Nils Wildberg flies through the air in the long jump at the Meet of Champions last Saturday at Northern Burlington High. Junior Wildberg took second in the event with a personal record leap of 23’ 8.5. Wildberg is one of 16 athletes from PHS who will be competing at the New Balance Nationals next weekend in Greensboro, N.C. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Nils Wildberg was looking for a new activity in his freshman year at Princeton High and made a fateful decision.
“I first started track in my freshman year in high school in the winter,” said Wildberg, who had focused on soccer prior to entering PHS in 2015.
“I just saw what the school had to offer and it just caught my eye and I registered for it. I loved it instantly.”
Starting as a sprinter and high jumper that winter, Wildberg transitioned to the long jump and triple jump that spring as he learned the ropes of his new pursuit.
In sophomore season, Wildberg experienced a breakthrough in the long jump and has been flying high ever since.
“There was one meet, I think it was the Mercer Coaches Invitational where it was really windy and it was the first time I had a big jump way over 20 feet,” said Wildberg. “I thought to myself, I could compete at a high level.”
Building on that effort, Wildberg went on to win the title in the long jump at the Mercer County Championships, take fifth at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet, and qualify for the Meet of Champions (MOC).
This spring in his junior campaign, Wildberg’s heroics have helped PHS produce a season for the ages that has seen the squad place first at the county, sectional, and state Group 4 meet. The sweep marked the program’s first outdoor county championship since 1982, its first outdoor sectional crown since 1989, and the first outdoor state title since 1981.
In the long jump, Wildberg took third at the county meet, sixth in the sectional, and third in the Group meet. In addition, he has emerged as top sprinter as well, winning the 200 at the county meet and helping the 4×100 relay to first. At the sectional meet, Wildberg was third in the 100 and part of the winning 4×100 relay. He helped the 4×100 finish third at the group meet.
Last Saturday in the MOC at Northern Burlington High, Wildberg soared to a personal record of of 23’ 8.5 to take second in the event with senior teammate Narayan taking third in 23’7.5.
“This meet was what I have been training for this whole year, all summer and all season,” said Wildberg.
“I really knew I could come in with full force and do my best against the best athletes in the state. It was a really fun experience.”
It was a fun day all around at the MOC for PHS as its athletes set a number of school and personal records at the competition.
Senior star Will Hare placed second in 3,200 in a school record 9:07.12, Simon Schenk finished third in the pole vault with a mark of 15’ 0 to set a personal, school, and sophomore state record. Junior Paul Brennan came in third in the discus with a heave of 182’ 0, a PR and a school record. Sophomore Ben Kioko was seventh in the discus in a personal best and school record of 184’10; while the 4×800 relay of Nick Delaney, Jackson McCarthy, Acasio Pinheiro, Tucker Zullo set a school record of 7:47.75 in taking third.
For Wildberg, training with senior star Narayan has helped him reach new heights.
“Training with Varun is fantastic; it is really nice and helpful to have someone push you so much,” said Wildberg. “You learn a lot of things from training with somebody as good as he is. It helps you advance your technique and skill.”
Making advancements in the sprint events has been an ongoing process for Wildberg.
“I didn’t really train that much for sprints at all,” said Wildberg, noting that working with fellow sprinters, Matt Perello, Jack Whetstone, and Narayan has been a major factor in his success. “In the beginning, I was more focused on jumps. Whenever we needed points in a meet, my coach would put me in and I just ran and gradually improved with lifting and jump work.”
In reflecting on the team’s historic spring, Wildberg sees it as a product of hard work and unity.
“I would say that work ethic has played the biggest part,” said Wildberg, noting that the sprinters and jumpers have been training since last September.
“We have good team chemistry as well. We are all able to talk to each other as friends and communicate with each other. We recently got a school record board in out school gym. We are breaking all of the records this year.”
As Wildberg took off on his personal record jump last Saturday, he sensed that it was going to be something special.
“It felt really good, it felt like a great jump,” said Wildberg. “I was actually behind the board so I had a few more inches to go and could do an even bigger jump.”
Next weekend, Wildberg will be on a bigger stage as he competes at the New Balance Nationals next weekend in Greensboro, N.C.
“I am going to bring it all; my goal for my high school career is to get All American at nationals, which is top six,” said Wildberg, who will be joined by 15 other PHS teammates at the meet. “I am going to put everything I have on the line and go for it.”
Looking ahead, Wildberg is confident that the Little Tigers can keep going for titles next season in his final high school campaign.
“We have an entire year to improve and I feel like we can pull off some big things next year,” said Wildberg.
“Everybody on the team brings so much effort, especially our younger kids like Simon Schenk and Matt Perello. Hopefully they will be inspired to continue this winning streak.”
Wildberg, for his part, ultimately plans to continue his track career in college.
“I have a long way to go,” said Wildberg, who has started researching schools as he prepares for the recruiting process. “My performance is far from perfect and I have a lot more in me. I would like to compete at an even higher level if I can.”