FRANKLINVILLE - In a competitive South Jersey Group III repeating is never easy. Just don’t tell that to Winslow High School girls track team.
Entering this season’s sectionals, the Eagles had already won four straight South Jersey titles. This year was no different after Winslow dominated Friday’s action and continued the success on Saturday.
“We knew what we had and even with that, the girls stepped up,” said Winslow head coach George Horne. “We had points and pr’s from girls all over the place. We placed three in a lot of events (Friday).”
A huge reason for the Eagles success was senior Shakira Dancy, who repeated in the 100 Dash (11.75) , 200 Dash (23.85), and the 4x400 (3:58.26) relay this weekend while also picking up her seventh gold medal as a member of the Eagles since she transferred before her junior year in the 400 Dash with a time of 56.52. The time in the 200 beat a record set by Olympian English Gardner in 2007 of 24.09 and is now second in the state rankings behind Union Catholic’s Sydney McLaughlin at 23.19.
“Shakira is one of the best we have ever had at Winslow and to say that at Winslow says a lot about the kid,” said Horne, who has been coaching the Eagles since 2010. “We have had triple winners before and Shakria is right there with any of the best that we’ve had. She also set pr’s today which is special. She is running for our points. We were really trying to win this meet. She loves track and she loves racing. The bigger the meet, the better she runs. She trains with an attitude and runs with an attitude to win. Luckily it kind of permeates with the team.”
“I wasn’t really excited because I was going for a faster time, actually,” Dancy said. “I was like, ‘Oh, a 23.8. That’s OK.’ My personal record was 23.9 previously so I was like, ‘Ugh, only a little bit off.’ Maybe at Groups I can go faster.”
Besides Dancy, Winslow racked up hardware across the board with Ciarra Johnson bringing home first in the shot put at 40 feet 3 inches. On Friday night, Johnson brought home the gold in the discus at 112 feet 1inch, while teammate Tionna Tobias won the long jump (18-06.50) and took second in the high jump on Friday Night. Flora Ahiarakwe was able to pick up second behind Dancy in the 400 dash while the 4x100 team also picked up a second-place finish.
It was the back end points that also helped the Eagles, picking up five four place finishes, two fifth place finishes and two sixth place finishes.
Also in Group III, Mainland’s Alyssa Aldridge brought home three sectional titles, winning the 3200 in record time of 10:31.12 as well as the 800 in 2:16. Aldridge also picked up the 1600 over Seneca’s Kayla Martin on Friday night at 4:57.22.
Absegami’s Joshonda Johnson picked up double wins on the weekend in the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:02.63 and the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.46 just over teammate Cyann Moyer (14.94). Delsea’s Cece Gerstenbacher helped the Crusaders edge out Winslow in the 4x100 to finish with a time of 47.78 and Seneca’s 4x800 brought home the title with a time of 9:27.86 and senior Brittney Raffo won the pole vault at 11 feet.
In Group II, Sterling was able to bring home its third straight title and fourth overall thanks to a strong performance from the Coppolino sisters among others. Between the two, four golds and two silvers were obtained.
Sydney Coppolino won the 400 in 57.74 and the 800 in 2:13.91 while taking second in the 400 hurdles (1:03.73) and second in the 1600 (5:10.54). Madison Coppolinoi's won the 1600 with a time of 5:10.10 while the 3200 finished first in 11:09.41. Senior Janell Rowe also helped to earn the Silver Knights some points, with two seconds in the long jump and triple jump behind Bonue Fosam of Robbinsville.
Sterling entered the day with 66 points and a 40-point lead over Robbinsville. The Silver Knights finished with 148, seven more than last season.
“Every year is special, it doesn’t get old,” said Sterling Head Coach Jeff McIlvaine, who has been at the helm for the past 12 years. “We have a lot of people returning, but it’s a new year and new challenges. Every year we go against great competition. These titles are still special and doesn’t get old. We come in trying to out perform what we had done the year before. We just want to keep getting better.”
“Each time we win it’s special because we just became a big team,” said Sydney Coppolino. “It’s just as exciting and it gives us a lot more confidence. It’s exciting to bring home individual titles as well. It makes me happy and I know that I help my team get to where they are, so it’s an overall good feeling.”
Sterling also saw wins from Lori Stratton in the pole vault at 10-6 as well as a double win from Aliya Harrison in the 100 dash (11.91) and the 200 dash (25.13).
Camden’s Lenaami Morton brought home the title in the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.15 and the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:03.72. Collingswood won the 4x400 with a time of 3:59.85 and Haddonfield won the 4x800 with a time of 9:36.35 without star Briana Gess, who was shut down for the season due to injury.
The next goal for Sterling is to bring home the repeat of a state title.
“If we win next week, that will be the icing on the cake,” said Rowe. “It would be amazing to end my career with a state title. It would be a really nice. I’m excited to graduate but I don’t want it to be over so fast.”
“It would be incredible,” said McIlvaine. “Winning a state championship is not something you take lightly. There is a lot of incredible competition out there, but the girls know that. They know they have to show up next weekend and we can’t have an average day and win. We need an exceptional day to win. It’s our goal to win, so we will see happens."
Zach Bates covers sports for South Jersey Sports Digest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ZachBatesSJSD and follow SJ Sports Digest @sjsportsdigest.