Bridget Flynn has noticed one big difference since transferring to Ocean City High School and joining the girls track and field team.
The junior came to Ocean City from Holy Spirit at the start of the school year. She enjoyed individual success as a distance runner on the Spartans' team but often had to push herself through training. Holy Spirit simply lacked numbers.
At Ocean City, she has plenty of talented teammates to run with her.
Flynn is one of several middle- or long-distance runners who have propelled Ocean City, No. 10 in The Press Elite 11, to a 4-1 dual-meet record. Flynn has won the 800- and 1,600-meter runs in all five meets, while cross country standout Mary Kate Brelsford won the 3,200 in all five. Rachel Stremme has won all but one 400.
"We are really lucky to have a lot of good distance runners," Flynn said. "Not all schools have that. It helps us with training and it's great for the relays."
Flynn and her teammates brought home two sets of gold watches from the Woodbury Relays on Saturday, one of the biggest weekend meets of the track and field season.
Flynn, Brelsford, Stremme and Epiphany Grisbaum won the 4x800 relay in 9 minutes, 45.78 seconds. Flynn, Brelsford, Stremme and Cierra Granger ran a school-record 12:19.46 en route to winning the distance medley relay.
"Distance is our strong suit," Ocean City coach Kevin Greene said. "We just seem to attract girls that are attracted to those events."
Ocean City has a traditionally strong distance program. Both the boys and girls track and field and cross country teams are annual contenders in the Cape-Atlantic League and in South Jersey Group III.
Why do the Red Raiders produce solid distance runners year after year?
"A lot of people like to say it's the salt water and running on the beach," Greene joked. "But we don't get to do that much."
Greene, in his fifth season, said much of his experience through high school and college was from middle distance up. His assistant coaches also have distance backgrounds.
Whatever the reason, Ocean City continues to succeed with its foundation in distance running. The Red Raiders' distance medley at Woodbury was the second fastest time in the state this spring, according to milesplit.com.
"It was really exciting to win the DMR with our team's best time. We each ran our best times," Flynn said.
The dual meet season is winding down. Ocean City has meets against Egg Harbor Township (2-0), the defending CAL American Conference champions, and Oakcrest (4-1).
Both teams are formidable opponents. EHT has incredible depth and Oakcrest has impressed so far. Based on what he's seen from his girls, Greene is confident the Red Raiders can win out.
"EHT will give us a battle; they always do. Oakcrest appears to have put together a good team. I think our depth and our distance strength will carry us through," he said.
Then, Ocean City will turn its attention to the season's most critical time. The Cape May County, CAL and South Jersey sectionals aren't far away.
Flynn is no stranger to the post season. She won the state Non-Public A 1,600 race last spring at Holy Spirit.
Led by their distance runners, Ocean City hopes to ride its early success all the way to June.
"We've done well, especially for so early in the season," Flynn said. "I'm excited to see what we're going to do when the championship season comes."
Buena Regional secured an edge in a close CAL National Conference race this past week.
The Chiefs defeated Cedar Creek 74-66 last Monday. Buena (3-0) leads the Pirates (3-1) and Pleasantville (3-1) in the standings.
The Greyhounds were the early-season favorite to win the conference title but lost to Cedar Creek in their second meet of the season.
Buena travels to Pleasantville for a meet on April 29. A win would likely make the Chiefs the outright champion.
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