BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - The Oakcrest High School boys track and field team cheered louder than usual when it learned it had won its fourth straight Atlantic County Championship on Thursday.
This was a title the Falcons weren't supposed to win after graduating several standout sprinters off last season's team.
But Oakcrest outscored second-place Egg Harbor Township 102.5-101.
"We're not as good as we were last year," Oakcrest coach Les Petty said. "But we're pretty good. They (the Falcons) deserve to be happy because a lot of people thought they weren't going to be able to do it."
Oakcrest's win highlighted several outstanding performances during the meet at Buena Regional.
Gary Melton of Cedar Creek won three events (the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the long jump), while Isaac Clark of Pleasantville (800 run and 400 dash) and James Plummer of EHT (shot put and discus) each won two events.
The Falcons entered the meet's final event - the 4x400 relay - needing to finish ahead of EHT to clinch the victory. The Falcons trailed EHT until the third leg when LaDarrell Dixon got the baton. Dixon passed the EHT runner in front of him on the final turn. The Falcons finished second to Pleasantville. EHT finished third.
"I thought the (EHT) runner was going to beat me," Dixon said. "But something kicked in me, and I just pulled through. Last year we had a lot of (Division I) runners. This year everyone had to step up."
While Oakcrest graduated four athletes who won county titles last year, the Falcons did return some outstanding athletes.
Dixon won the triple jump. Toliver finished first in the 110 hurdles and Daniel Jefferson won the high jump.
"This feels great because the kids on this team put their time and effort into track and field," Toliver said.
Egg Harbor Township standout sprinter Curtis Fitzpatrick missed the meet with a sore left hamstring. EHT coach Ryan Smith said Fitzpatrick should be fine for the South Jersey championships to be held May 24-25 at the Eagles' home track.
The Falcons hoisted the championship trophy and took a victory lap around the track. In addition to Thursday's win, Oakcrest was 9-0 in dual meets and won the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title.
"We proved we're not just a one-year team," Petty said. "We're a program."
Melton's wins should bring him plenty of attention - something he hasn't gotten much of this track and field season.
Melton has been one of the region's top sprinters but he's been overlooked because Cedar Creek did not have much success during relay meets in April. Cedar Creek, which opened in 2010 is known for its football and girls basketball success. Melton is spreading the school's name in the state track and field community.
"I just want to put my school on the map," he said.
Melton just edged Rocco Ordille of St. Joe in the 100 dash. Melton ran 10.93, while Ordille finished in 10.97.
Melton pulled away from the field and won the 200 dash in a personal best 22.45 seconds. The 200 was his final event.
"I felt kind of fatigued," he said. "But I stuck it out and came through."
Contact Michael McGarry:
ATLANTIC COUNTY BOYS TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
at Buena Regional High School
TEAM – Oakcrest 102.50; EHT101; Absegami 63; 4. Pleasantville, 61; Cedar Creek 50; Buena Regional, 38.50; St. Joseph, 37; Hammonton, 29; Atlantic City, 16; St. Augustine 16; Holy Spirit, 8; Mainland Regional 5.
4x100 – 1. St. Joseph (Christopher Gabor, Caleb Williams, Miles Pease, Rocco Ordille) 43.76; 2. Absegami, 44.11; 3. Egg Harbor Township, 44.39
100 dash – 1. Gary Melton, Cedar Creek, 10.93; 2. Rocco Ordille, St. Joe, 10.97; 3. Rahim Harris, Holy Spirit, 10.98;
200 dash – 1. Gary Melton, Cedar Creek, 22.45; 2. Rocco Ordille, St. Joe, 22.62; 3. Rich Harris, AC, 22.97
400 dash – 1. Isaac Clark, Pville, 48.89; 2. Ishmael Muhammad, Oakcrest, 49.91; 3. Miles Pease, St. Joe, 51.36
800 run – 1. Isaac Clark, Pville, 1:52.89; 2. Jacob Clark, Pville, 1:53.18; 3. Ismael Muhammad, Oakcrest, 1:54.30
1,600 run – 1. Jacob Clark, Pville, 4:19.77; 2. Salman Khalid, Absegami, 4:23.29; 3. Louis Corgliano, Hammonton, 4:24.99
3,200 run – 1. Salman Khalid, Absegami, 9:38.1; 2. Shawn Bryant, EHT, 10:06.85; 3. Vincent Del Conte, EHT, 10:07.11
4x400 relay – 1. Pleasantville (Noah Prevard, Jacob Clark, Nicolas McBean, Isaac Clark) 3:23.30; 2. Oakcrest 3:25.50; 3. Egg Harbor Township, 3:29.86.
110 hurdles – 1. Chase Toliver, Oakcrest, 14.73; 2. Steven Morgan, EHT, 14.75; 3. Simuel Jackson, Cedar Creek, 15.21
400 hurdles – 1. Nick DellaVecchia, Absegami, 56.43; 2. Mike Pallozzi. St. Augustine, 57.64; 3. Nathaniel Henry, EHT, 58.18
Long jump – 1. Gary Melton, Cedar Creek, 22-7.75; 2. Chase Toliver, Oakcrest, 20-10; 3. Tyler Bing, Absegami, 20-9.
High jump – 1. Daniel Jefferson, Oakcrest, 6-4; 2. Rayshawn Scott, Buena, 6-2; 3. Shane Bush, Oakcrest, 6-2
Triple jump – 1. LaDarrell Dixon, Oakcrest, 44-4.50; 2. Mach Jackson, Absegami, 43-1; 3. Chase Toliver, Oakcrest, 42-11.25
Shot put – 1. James Plummer, EHT, 55-10.25; 2. Kofi Yamoah, EHT, 55-9.75; 3. Matt Conover, Cedar Creek, 46-3
Javelin – 1. Gary Scola, Hammonton, 154-8; 2. Neal Nelson, Buena, 150-7; 3. Nick Scelso, St. Augustine, 148-6
Discus – 1. James Plummer, EHT, 173-7; 2. Mike Busby, Buena, 153-4; 3. Kofi Yamoah, EHT, 147-1
Pole vault – 1. Aidan Skelly, Hammonton, 13-6; 2. Ray Rodriguez, Oakcrest, 13-0; 3. Anthony DelGesso, Buena, 12-0