2012 South Jersey Track Individual Preview Girls
Each event in South Jersey is jam-packed with girls who throw farther, jump higher, and run faster than the girls did back when I ran in high school. During the 2011-2012 indoor season, South Jersey had four individuals plus a relay team earn All American honors at New Balance Nationals. A large number of athletes were also competing at the state level of competition in the spring of 2011 with South Jersey having four athletes in the top 15 of the sprinting events, at least two in each of the distance events, three in the jumping events, and five in the throwing events. It is clear that many of the athletes discussed in this preview will be seen at the NJSIAA State Group meets, NJSIAA State Meet of Champions, and New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
As it was with the boys, this preview will begin by looking at the sprinting, hurdling, and jumping events, where a lot of the same names will pop up. Mississippi State bound, All American hurdler Stey’ce McNeil of Winslow Township returns as the reigning two-time South Jersey Performer of the Year from spring 2011 and winter 2012. Stey’ce is the top returning 100m hurdler by a full one-half second and is also ranked in the top two in the 200m and 400m from spring 2011. She shares this top two ranking with Annie Johnson from Shawnee in the 200m and 400m, with Johnson having the edge in the 400m last spring and in the 55m Dash this past winter. Kianjae Pollard of Penns Grove is an athlete with good range as she was ranked in the state's top 15 in the 100m, 200m, and 400m last spring. Although she does not show up on the South Jersey Top 5 lists during the indoor season, Bryanna Williams of Timber Creek finished in front of Johnson at the 2011 NJSIAA Meet of Champions 100m Dash, which proves she warrants some watching this spring. Some other names to look for in the 100m and 200m dashes are Emily Carson of Haddonfield, Nia Lawrence and Shailah Williams of Pemberton, Caleah Allen of Williamstown, and Yvonne Wolef of Middle Township. Rounding out the sprinting events with the 400m, Faleesha Dowe of Penns Grove, Ashley Woodards of Delsea, and Thalia Cooper of Kingsway should also be considered as capable of placing in this event at the sectional and state level.
On to the hurdles, Stey’ce McNeil will again look to continue her success in this event off of her Meet of Champions victory last spring. As previously mentioned, she had a large margin on her nearest competitor but this group will certainly look to close the gap. Evann Thompson of Lenape is the next fastest returner from South Jersey and you’ll also see Evann near the top of the sprinting rankings as well. Janelle Wellons of Kingsway and Helena Leyrer of Buena are next on the list, both nearly breaking 15 seconds in this event. Leyrer was also ranked second behind McNeil in the 55m Hurdles this past indoor season. Ruby Rodriguez from Pleasantville jumped up from eighth in South Jersey last year to fourth this year and looks to make another jump. Looking at the intermediates, Woodards from Delsea is the reigning champion from the MOC at this event. Tampha Hill of Woodbury and Leyrer look to make up the gap in this event to challenge Woodards for fastest South Jersey athlete in this event.
Taking a look at the jumps, Cidae’a Woods from Winslow Twp is the top returner in the long jump from last spring with a half foot advantage on her nearest competitor. In addition, she was also number one in South Jersey this past indoor season. Monet Gist from Atlantic City High School and Williams of Timber Creek both jumped in the high 17 feet range last spring and are considered possible challengers to Woods. Shaya Wilkerson and Allison Cox of Lenape could also be in the mix as they were ranked second and third, respectively during the 2012 indoor season. While she did not have the farthest jump of the 2011 season, Carson of Haddonfield shows that her range applies to the jumps as well as she is the top returner from South Jersey from the Meet of Champions. Finally, Amaris Kobolak of Cinnaminson could be a force in this event in addition to the high jump where she was in the discussion for All South Jersey during the indoor season. Megan Kirschling from West Deptford is the top returner in this event after jumping 5’7” last year and finishing as runner up at Meet of Champions. Wilkerson shows she’ll also be a contender in this event, which will be one of the deeper jumping events. Alicia Terrell of Timber Creek and Erica Herrmann of Haddonfield join Wilkerson and Kobolak in the 5’4” club, with Terrell earning All South Jersey honors this past indoor season. All of these athletes have been consistent in clearing 5’2” and above since last spring so who knows what is in store! To conclude the jumps we look at the triple jump and the pole vault.
The familiar name of Shaya Wilkerson shows up in this event as the top South Jersey returner from 2011. She was also the top performer this past indoor season by a full two feet. She comes into the season with a decided advantage on the competition but Liz Montague from Cherokee looks to close that gap as she was ranked second behind Wilkerson. Jewel Brown of Clayton High School, Shequell Higgs from Winslow Township, and, the definition of versatility, Williams from Timber Creek round out the top five returners in this event. Finally, we come to the Pole Vault with Alexandra Elder from Moorestown High School and Christin Kursewicz of Clearview High School looking like the top two returners in this event. Elder earned All South Jersey Honors this past winter and appears to have closed Kursewicz’s advantage from last spring. Tracey Masterson from Mainland High School, Washington Twp.'s Miranda Roberts and Alexis Brown of Delsea, already consistent 10’ jumpers, look to push up towards the top of this group.
Moving onto the distance events, the high level and depth of competition remain. Looking first at the 800m. With the Duffey sisters of Lenape playing lacrosse in the spring, this event opens up quite a bit with many athletes having run sub 2:20. Celine Mazzi of Delsea comes into the season on a roll having run 2:17 at the Meet of Champions. She is joined by Julia Despirito of Shawnee and Bridgid Flynn of Holy Spirit, who were the top two returners from spring 2011, as the top contenders at this event. Natalia Ocasio and Emily McGee from Lenape were ranked third and fourth in this event last spring and should also be in the discussion; although both often move up to the 1600m or 3200m. Newcomers to the rankings, Carly Bonnet of Haddonfield and Samantha Budd of West Deptford look to impress off of their large improvements from this past indoor season.
Moving up in distance to the 1600. This is where some more familiar names pop up and who will take home the fastest time depends on which event each athlete chooses to direct their focus towards. Dina Iacone from Washington Township and Holly Bischof from Bishop Eustace return as the only members of the sub five club from South Jersey from spring 2011. Megan Lacy from Cherokee High School, in addition to her state 5000m record, posted the fastest 1600m time from the 2012 indoor season. Depending on which event she chooses, Ocasio from Lenape could certainly challenge these three along with Kristen Niedrach from Shawnee as both narrowly missed the five minute barrier indoors. Do not count out a pair of freshman in Camille Franklin of Lenape, who ran 5:07, and Washington Township freshman Lindsey Kane who finished with the fourth fastest time this past season to go along with a 3:45 1200m split. In the 3200, it is more of the same names with Lacy, Iacone, and Bischof posting times from indoors that placed in the Top 50 nationally.
Christin Bettis from Hammonton, who ran sub 11 (hand-timed) indoors, looks to keep pushing her way up to that front group. Rounding out the top South Jersey athletes in this event are Meghan Malloy and Shelby Cain from Haddonfield who both have a shot to run sub 11 this season, Mary Kate Brelsford of Ocean City who ran the fourth fastest South Jersey time indoors and was All South Jersey this past Cross Country season, and Courtney Kelly of Bishop Eustace who ran the fifth fastest time and is a two-time All South Jersey member in Cross Country.
Wrapping up the girls South Jersey preview we turn to the throws. The Shot Put discussion starts with Jessica Woodard of Cherokee who threw farther than her closest competitor by five feet last spring and three feet this past indoor season, while earning All American. Alexis Kennedy of Millville and Katherine Johnston of Haddonfield join Woodard as the only three athletes to break the 40 foot barrier during the 2012 indoor season. Showing that Bridgeton has good throwers all around, Samone Jones and Kamyra Segers look to hold on to their second and third rankings from last spring. Johnston of Haddonfield is not only an accomplished shot putter; she also holds the farthest distance from South Jersey in the javelin, with a 139 foot throw. Maria Jimenez of Vineland and Jeanne Berry of Delsea join Johnston as the three South Jersey athletes to throw farther than 130’ in 2011. We conclude this preview with the discus, where Jessica Woodard looks to continue her success. In 2011, she bested her nearest competitor by 11 feet and also won this event at Meet of Champions. Ashli Weems from Millville, along with Kennedy, took first and second in this event at Group 4 sectionals last year with Weems breaking the 130’ barrier.
As it was with the boys preview, I would bet everyone is ready to rock beginning this weekend and to carry it all the way through to June!
Cover Photo by: Dennis Smythe for NJRunners.com