Andrea Olsen surprised herself at the South Jersey Group II track and field meet.
The Buena Regional High School senior won the 100-meter hurdles race in a personal-best 14.17 seconds. Ever since she set a school record of 14.2 in the event in April, Olsen had her sights set on breaking the 14-second mark.
Her time at the sectional race was the closest she had ever gotten.
"It was awesome. It was close enough for me to be happy," Olsen said.
The victory earned Olsen one of three South Jersey titles. She also won the 400 hurdles in 1 minute 3.33 seconds and the 400 in 57.38 seconds.
Olsen went on to become the state Group II champion in the 100 hurdles (14.56) and 400 hurdles (1:00.58).
Olsen is The Press 2013 Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"It's definitely been a dream season for her," Buena coach Stephanie Winkler said. "I always knew she was an all-star athlete."
At the Meet of Champions, Olsen was seeded eighth or higher in all four of her events - the hurdles, 400 and 200.
She capped off a terrific season with an eighth-place MOC finish in the 400 hurdles.
"It definitely feels amazing," Olsen said. "I'm happy I could live up to everyone's expectations."
Olsen exploded on the local track scene after missing most of her sophomore season to an illness and junior season to an ankle injury. She became the Chiefs' go-to runner.
Often a multi-event winner, Olsen led Buena to its sixth straight Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title.
"I've been fortunate enough to have some great athletes," Winkler said. "But she's the one that's been most talked about by other coaches."
At the Woodbury Relays in April, Olsen was handed the baton in the 4x400-meter relay trailing the lead by about 30 meters.
"She's got this," the coach said.
Olsen sprinted a 56.1 anchor lap to bring the Chiefs to victory. Buena also won the team title that day.
With a special blend of competitive nature and talent, Olsen thrives in come-from-behind situations.
"It's more fun to have to catch up to someone than to be next to them the entire way," she said.
Olsen etched her name into a storied record book at Buena. Winkler ranked her among the top of a list of stellar athletes who have passed through the school's successful history.
Olsen will continue her track and field career at Monmouth University next year. But she will never forget the time she spent as a Chief.
"I love this track program and our coach," Olsen said. "It was such a good experience."
Team and Coach of the Year
Southern Regional is a perennial power in girls track and field.
The Rams lived up to that moniker in what was pegged as a rebuilding season. Southern won its fifth straight Ocean County title and came in second place at the South Jersey Group IV meet.
Not bad for a team with few seniors to lead it.
"We went into the season knowing we'd graduated our most balanced and deepest class," Rams coach Brian Zatorski said. "We considered this to be a learning year."
Southern, No. 2 in The Press Elite 11, is the Girls Track and Field Team of the Year.
The Rams success throughout the season made them a contender for another South Jersey Group IV championship.
Southern scored 69 points on the second day of the South Jersey meet to capture second place.
Part of the Rams' success is due to a coaching staff led by Zatorski. Under his leadership, Southern has remained at the top of the local girls track and field scene.
He is the Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year.
"The kids basically exceeded every expectation we had for them," Zatorski said. "The results kind of spoke for themselves. We didn't win everything we tried to win, but we certainly gave teams a run for their money."
A look ahead
It will be difficult for other teams to dethrone Southern Regional as the area's best girls track and field program. The Rams return many of this year's athletes.
Some of the area's most talented athletes return next spring. Ocean City distance runner Bridget Flynn won two South Jersey Group III titles as a junior.
Who will be the team to beat in the Cape-Atlantic League next spring?
The Egg Harbor Township, Ocean City, Millville and Buena Regional girls all graduate several of its leaders. However, these teams always find a way to contend for conference titles.
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