By: Matt Ciociola - SJ Editor
2012 South Jersey Track Preview Boys
This weekend marks the beginning of the spring track season in the state of New Jersey. The majority of teams in South Jersey will open up at either the Camden-Gloucester Relays at Pennsauken HS or at the Jim Camburn Memorial Buena Relays at Buena HS or in the case of a couple of SJ teams, heading north to the Rebel Relays hosted by Howell HS. The 2012 spring season will undoubtedly be a continuation of the strong performances put forth by South Jersey teams during the indoor season. Then there are teams who look to capitalize on the increased number of field events that the spring season entails, which proves the need to be a well-rounded.
Timber Creek High School, the 2011 Group 3 State Champions and the top ranked South Jersey team from 2011 is one of those teams that define well-rounded. During the indoor season, the team finished second at the 2012 NJSIAA Group 3 South Jersey Sectional Championships and will only benefit from the increased number of field events as shown by their 80 point victory at the 2011 NJSIAA Spring Track Group 3 South Jersey Sectional Championships.
They will surely meet an immediate challenge, as they did indoors, from an arguably historic Oakcrest team that had their shuttle hurdle relay earn All American at New Balance Nationals. Oakcrest who won the 2011 Group 4 State Championship, dropped down to Group 3 for the 2012 winter and spring track seasons. Oakcrest fields an extremely deep team that can do some damage in events ranging from the dash to the mid distance events, as well as the jumps. In addition to this large event coverage, Oakcrest has the firepower upfront as evidenced by their 1st through 3rd place sweep at the NJSIAA Indoor State Meet of Champions.
Delsea, who finished the 2011 spring season ranked 3rd in South Jersey while qualifying for Nike Track Nationals, won the Group 2 NJSIAA South Jersey Sectional Championships this past indoor season. Going with the theme of what makes a successful track team; Delsea boasts strengths in each event group and therefore can compete with any team in any event.
Led by a shot-putter worthy of all-time status, Braheme Days, Bridgeton had a very successful indoor season advancing many athletes to states and meet of champions. They also have many of the pieces back from the 2011 spring team that won the NJSIAA Group 2 South Jersey Sectional Championships, which is a tribute to their overall team depth.
Cherokee comes into the season after finishing the 2011 campaign ranked 5th in South Jersey and an amazing indoor season. Cherokee has produced great distance runners for years and this year was no different. What made this past season amazing and that bodes well for spring; is that Cherokee accomplished many team honors such as: third at Group 4 NJSIAA South Jersey Sectional and State Championships, having a 4x400 qualify for NJSIAA Meet of Champions, and most of all, having their 4x800 place 2nd at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in a time of 7:43.64. This is a team that can do major damage on the track.
In 2011, Willingboro placed second to Bridgeton at sectionals by 20.75 points. They went onto narrowly miss the state title; placing second to Haddonfield by two points. This past indoor season, they were a bit under the South Jersey radar due to competing in the Central Jersey Sectional Championships, winning by 29 points. They went on to become Group 2 State Champions, which is remarkable considering how many seniors they lost to graduation from 2011 to 2012. It is clear they’ll remain a force in Group two this upcoming season.
After finishing the 2011 spring season ranked sixth in South Jersey, Cherry Hill East returns a good amount of their depth from the field events, sprints, and mid distance events. They return multiple scorers from the 2011 spring sectional meet including three of the four members of the 1st place 4x400 team that also placed third at the 2012 NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
Kingsway and Shawnee are teams worth mentioning as they placed third and fourth behind Timber Creek in SJ Group 3. Kingsway has good depth in the distance events to go along with strong individuals in the sprints and throwing events. Shawnee with a couple outstanding distance runners, a All South Jersey Pole Vaulter, and a second place hurdler from the South Jersey Group 3 meet will also be in position to again be ranked with the top South Jersey teams.
Rounding out the large schools is Egg Harbor Township who looks to challenge for the South Jersey Group 4 title. Egg Harbor is amazing depth in the shot put, boasting five 50+ foot athletes. They also have the upfront power in many track events with sectional champs at 55m and 1600m on their roster.
Finally, two Group 1 schools, Woodbury and Pleasantville look to make an impression against any school, regardless of size. These two teams were the Runner-Up and Champion, respectively, at both the NJSIAA South Jersey and State Group 1 Championships. Woodbury has two All South Jersey performers at 400m and multi-events backed up by depth in the sprints and jumps. Pleasantville has depth in just about every event from the throws to the dashes to the distance events as evidenced by their four sectional champions and three state champions from this past indoor season.
Bottom line is, not only is the state of New Jersey getting more and more competitive nationally each year; South Jersey is leading that charge. South Jersey had two relays and an individual earn All American Status but the depth of the teams, both large and small, is remarkable. It will certainly be an exciting spring season team-wise in South Jersey.
All Photos by: Dennis Smythe for NJRunners.com