As we enter 2020, it’s as good a time as any to consider some of the best high school athletes in South Jersey.
The debates are endless and everyone has an opinion. Delran High School’s R.J. Moten (who will play football and baseball at Michigan) and Eastern three-sport star Kelli McGroarty (committed to LaSalle for soccer) are sure to get plenty of votes.
But there’s a new name you should probably begin to commit to memory for such conversations: Floyd Whitaker.
The Highland Regional High School junior is already one of the best triple jumpers in the country. Fresh off a Meet of Champions record last June, Whitaker has been recently competing nationally with the prestigious Project Triple Jump.
Whitaker’s Meet of Champion-record 50-2 ½ triple jump last year was the sixth best jump in New Jersey history and third best ever among South Jersey athletes.
And he’s also a talented basketball player. As a sophomore, Whitaker averaged 12.64 points per game, 6.72 rebounds, 1.08 blocks and 1.04 steals per game.
South Jersey Sports Weekly caught up with Whitaker, the first Meet of Champions winner in Highland history, prior to the beginning of the basketball season.
SJSW: You set the Meet of Champions record in June and also beat the previous sophomore state record by almost two feet. How did that feel?
Floyd Whitaker: It was big. I had been looking forward to that a lot. I was like, if I’m not going to (go over 50) at any of these other meets, I’m definitely doing it at the Meet of Champions.
Congratulations to Floyd Whitaker, the 2019 New Jersey Triple Jump State Champion!! His jump of 50’2” broke the sophomore State Record and Meet of Champions record 🎉👟 #TartanPride
— Highland Athletics (@HighlandTartans) June 8, 2019
SJSW: You have two more spring seasons to go – is claiming the state record (50-9 ¼) a realistic goal for you?
Whitaker: Oh yea. It’s getting beat this year.
SJSW: What makes you confident?
Whitaker: I’ve been doing Project Triple Jump and they take me out places and do everything for us to help us out, so that’s a big help as far as training, getting my form right and getting stronger, with all of the tips they give.
SJSW: Where have you gone with Project Triple Jump?
Whitaker: They took us to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and they flew us out to Atlanta a few weeks ago. And in January we’re going to Cuba.
SJSW: Looking at some of the track athletes to come out of New Jersey (Carl Lewis, Carol Lewis, and English Gardner are among the Olympians from South Jersey alone) there are some all-time greats. What would it mean to you to claim a state record in a state that’s had that much talent?
Whitaker: It’s definitely a big thing to be remembered as one of the greatest to ever do it in this state. It’d be a big thing.
SJSW: How does basketball work into everything for you?
Whitaker: I still take basketball seriously, but I’m mostly doing it for fun. But track is building up and getting bigger.
SJSW: What else are you competing in at track besides triple jump?
Whitaker: I want to get better at long jump, definitely. And 400 hurdles, the 4X400. I wanted to do pole vault freshman year and this year I’d like to try javelin. My coach said I could be good at discus. And 110 hurdles, too.
SJSW: Is there any one athlete in South Jersey that you admire or makes you better?
Whitaker: Jeff Agosto, he’s also here at Highland.
SJSW: What makes him push you?
Whitaker: We’re close friends, we hang out a lot. We just mess around a lot and push each other, he also does triple jump and he’s always saying he’s going to be better than me so I say, “OK, let’s go at it.”
SJSW: Back to basketball: what are your expectations for this season?
Whitaker: Definitely to win states.
SJSW: You guys lost in first round of playoffs (to Seneca) last season. What makes you think this program can make that jump?
Whitaker: We only lost one player from last year so we basically have our whole team back. We were already good, we just made a few small mistakes (last year).
SJSW: What are you best at on the court?
Whitaker: Working the post. And the energy (I bring). I’m always in a good mood on the court, so if someone else is down I can get them up.
SJSW: For someone your size who is an all-state triple jumper, I can’t imagine there’s anyone that dunks better than you in South Jersey.
Whitaker: (There) probably (is). There might be guys more experienced. When I do my dunks, I don’t really practice them. If I see something new I might try it randomly.
SJSW: Best shooter on your team?
Whitaker: There’s a couple. Deywilk (Tavarez) and Bobby (Mullan).
SJSW: Best defensive player?
SJSW: What’s your favorite thing about defense?
Whitaker: Just the energy.
SJSW: What do you credit to keeping that energy up at all times?
Whitaker: I don’t know, before the games I’m always hype. And when my teammates get into it, they get loud, (it’s infectious).
SJSW: Do you have any role models?
Whitaker: Not really. Except (former American Olympic gold medalist) Kenny Harrison. His energy, the way he moves, how flexible he is and his passion – all of it.
SJSW: You still have 17 months left before graduation. What is the one thing you want to accomplish before you leave Highland?
Whitaker: Win nationals (in triple jump). And states in basketball.
SJSW: Do you have a favorite thing you’ve seen on TV lately, something you’re bingeing?
Whitaker: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I’ll watch Netflix.
SJSW: Best thing you’ve seen recently?
Whitaker: “6 Underground.”
SJSW: What do you do in your downtime?
Whitaker: I sleep. [Laughs]. And I eat. That’s basically it.
SJSW: Favorite thing to eat?
Whitaker: Probably salad.
SJSW: Pretty smart for a serious athlete.
Whitaker: I try. [Laughs]
SJSW: Favorite place to eat around Blackwood?
Whitaker: Lamp Post Diner.