By Steve Overmyer

SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It’s not often the women’s 400-meter hurdles is the spotlight event of the night.

But on Tuesday, a track star from New Jersey took centerstage in one of the most anticipated races of the Tokyo Olympics, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reported.

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The room was full of friends crowding in front of televisions in anticipation.

“That might’ve been the most excited I’ve been ever,” Union Catholic High School coach Michael McCabe said.

They were cheering for Sydney McLaughlin, a former Union Catholic who was flying toward gold. This isn’t her first Olympics. In 2016, she made the U.S. Track and Field Team at the age of 16, making her an immediate star.

“We’d go to meets and kids would want autographs. We’d have to have extra security inside to make sure she was able to do whatever she had to do,” father Willie McLaughlin said.

Her father was also a track star, participating in the Olympic Trials in 1984.

Sydney McLaughlin of the United States reacts during the awards ceremony of the Women’s 400m Hurdles Final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Aug. 4, 2021. (Photo by Li Yibo/Xinhua via Getty Images)

“We’ve been dreaming about this since we’ve had kids. My wife was a track star as well. It was more special to see one of our children succeed at the highest level of sport,” Willie McLaughlin said.

In the 400 hurdles finals, Sydney McLaughlin had to chase down her friend and defending gold medalist Delilah Muhammad, something that didn’t happen until a daring move on the final hurdle.

“It looked like she had a decision to make going over 10, whether she should stutter step to get over it or take an extra bound,” Overmyer noted.

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“If you stutter, you’re going to slow down and probably get high over the hurdle. So she steered or measured it really well and was able to sprint over that hurdle and carry that momentum to the line,” McCabe said.

Sydney McLaughlin didn’t complete the pass until the final few steps. When she looked up she saw that she also broke the world record.

“I’m with my son and he says, ‘Dad, I’ve never heard anything that loud in my life,'” McCabe said.

“We were so proud of her. I was standing in front of the TV last night crying,” friend and Scotch Plains resident Elizabeth Salerno said.

When asked what it felt like, Ella Sona said outcome wasn’t just a victory for Sydney McLaughlin.

“This was a victory for the whole town, for everyone in this area to see someone local make it, and make it big!” Sona said.

And for a 21-year-old from this small town in new jersey, it was just the first leap into a golden career.

Another New Jersey native also won gold on Tuesday night. Athing Mu of Trenton took gold in the 800 meters, the first American to do so at the Olympics in 53 years.

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And she’s only 19.

Steve Overmyer