Already, Zyra Thomas was a national champion. Now the Schalick High School senior is a state champion.
Back in early March, Thomas won the shot put national championship in New York. Last weekend, the Schalick girls’ track team won the Group 1 state title at Franklin Township.
“It’s amazing,” Thomas said. “We were underdogs and no one thought we could win it, but we came out up from nowhere.”
The Cougars scored 52 points to edge second-place Highland Park (49) and out distance Colonial Conference rivals - third-place Paulsboro (40) and fourth-place Collingswood (39).
“We didn’t expect any of that, we just kept working hard, but sometimes when you work hard you don’t know what good things will happen,” Thomas said.
There really wasn’t any reason, or more appropriately, any history for the Cougars to expect a state title since the program had never won one before.
“Absolutely, because this is our first state title,” Thomas said when asked how special the championship felt.
“Everyone was so emotional afterwards,” Thomas added. “It was so relieving and so astonishing that we all came together.”
There was, actually, reason to believe the Cougars could bring home their inaugural championship since two weeks ago Schalick won the sectional title with 47 points over second place Haddon Heights (40).
The momentum continued at the state meet. The Cougars won the 4x800 relay (Amanda Choma, Marleigh Puglia, Chloe Gerstenbacher and Jula Smith) in 9:48.96 and Thomas won the shot put with a 42-03.75.
“When you go out and you do your best and you come out with the great accomplishment, it’s the best thing ever,” Thomas said. “We put all this hard work into it and we came out with the state title.”
In addition to the shot title, Thomas placed second in the discus with a 124-2.
“My freshman year I wasn’t aware how special track was,” Thomas said.
Actually, Thomas played on the Schalick football team as a freshman. She was asked to join the indoor track team after the football season.
“I thought with winter track you had to run, so I didn’t necessarily want to do it,” Thomas said.
Now she is a national champion and sate champion. She heaved a throw of 47-5 3/4 inches at the New Balance National Indoor Championships to win the title. The throw shattered her personal best by over two feet and it was the farthest shot in South Jersey girls’ high school history. The previous indoor record was held by Najeaya Singleton of Vineland with a 46-15. The best outdoor throw is held by Jess Woodard of Cherokee with a 47-1 ¼.
“I didn’t know you could be a track and field national champion,” Thomas said.
“I’m just really glad I took interest in doing it,” Thomas added. “It’s just something that I have a passion for. I didn’t know it would become so popular. People talk about track like it’s football basketball now.”
Thomas, a Rutgers University commit, is looking to top 50 feet at the Meet of Champions Saturday at Northern Burlington High School or in mid-June at the outdoor nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“There’s a wall I have to break before between now and nationals,” Thomas said. “It is like a little wall that has to break.
“I feel I have three-to-five more feet on that,” Thomas said.
The Schalick girls broke through its wall by winning its first state ttile.
“I really want to see how much the hard work pays off,” Thomas said. “It’s special to see hard work and tears come together for this special day.”