RICHLAND -Although his rise seems rapid, Sincere Rhea really hasn’t emerged from under the radar this spring.
After all, the St. Augustine Prep school junior won the Meet of Champions 110-meter hurdles over the winter.
“He has been unbelievable in the winter and is keeping it going right through,” said Matt Forrest, the coach of St Augustine.
Rhea is knocking on the door of running a sub-14 in the 110 hurdles.
“I’m constantly pushing forward,” Rhea said. “The coaches push me and my teammates push me, but I really give all the credit to God.”
Last week, Rhea helped the Hermits win the Large School 800 sprint medley championship at the South Jersey Open. He took the baton from leadoff man Will Gould and passed to Patrick Smith and Nkem Ota anchored for a time of 1:34.13, which was two seconds faster than their seed time.
The foursome also won the 4x100 on the Rancocas Valley track with Smith and Ota switching spots in a time of 43.47, which was over a second better than their seed time.
And, running in the same order, they also won the 4x200 relay in a time of 1:02.57, which was over three seconds off their seed time.
Rhea also teamed with leadoff man Joseph Barolozzi, Jacob Cobb in the third hole and anchor Justin Shorter to win the 4x100 shuttle hurdles.
So where did Rhea come from this year?
“Last year he had a hip injury, and other than dual meets didn’t run,” Forrest said.
“Freshman year, he ran a 14.99, which was the fastest freshman time in the state in 10 years, so I knew he was on the right path, but most of South Jersey had no clue,” Forrest said.
“In dual meets this spring, he’s been down to 14.1 hand time,” Forrest said.
As a sophomore, Rhea won the Indoor Non-Public A 55 hurdle state championship. Then, over this past winter, he won thee Meet of Champions title with the 7.35.
In the 400 hurdles this outdoor season, he clocked a 55.2, but again that was hand time.
Even with the emergence in the 400 hurdles, Forrest feels Rhea’s best event is the 110 hurdles. He said he’s been getting a couple phone calls, but mostly college coaches telling him when “he’s in the low 14’s or high 13’s that they will be calling.”
He should get there these next two weeks.
“My goal is to go sub-14 at the Atlantic County or the following week at the Cape Atlantic,” he said about the upcoming county and conference championships. “I know I will go sub-14 with a big crowd and all my peers around me.”
Rhea, who is from Millville, skipped running in the Penn Relays to run in other meets in Pennsylvania to get a time for the 110 hurdles.
“They had earlier times, they had a 14.99 since my freshman year and that’s not ranking high enough,” Rhea said about college coaches. “I had to get the 14.1 and that really opened eyes.”
Originally, Rhea opened the eyes of Forrest on the football field.
“He’s been a football player most of his life, I coached him in freshman football and I told him you are really fast, you need to run track and that’s not an option,” Forrest said.
“We had some decent hurdlers and they took him under his wing.”
Rhea didn’t embrace the hurdles at first.
“Freshman year, looking back, it was intimidating,” Rhea said about the hurdles. “I said to myself I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this, they looked a little high.
“But at the end of the year, at Pennsauken, I remember saying I thought I wanted to do this and I have grown in it every year since.”
Rhea recently went on football recruiting visits to the University of Richmond and Elon (North Carolina) and he has been offered by Lehigh. He Is being recruited as a defensive back and kick returner.
“I played football my entire life and I’ve been running track since my freshman year, so I’m not sure yet,” Rhea said. “In the summer I will sit down with my parents (Channel and Ben) and we will figure out what I want to do in college for the next four or five years … or beyond.”
Although he hasn’t made up his mind on what sport he wants to play, he does know what he wants to study.
“I want to major in psychology,” Rhea said. “I really want to talk to those who have problems, the people who need someone to talk to. I don’t like to see people down. I want to see them in position to be the best they can.”
He understands this is a good decision to have to make.
“As a sophomore I had a bad injury and I knew I would take two steps back but I would jump up six steps,” Rhea said. “Now people know me and it does feel special when I line up and all the eyes are on me.
“I feel the pressure, but to be honest, I like it, really pushes me.”
He really likes his first name, Sincere, too.
“I do always get jokes in school,” he said with a smile, “but I love it.”