Track and field: Buena's Helena Leyrer wins 400 hurdles at weather-shortened Meet of Champions
OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP - Helena Leyrer left the track dejected after the 400-meter hurdles at the state Group II championships last Friday night.
She left the track a champion and Cape-Atlantic League record holder after the same race at the Meet of Champions on Thursday.
The Buena Regional senior won the 400 hurdles in 1 minute, 0.26 seconds. Alexandra Cimino of Westwood ran 1:00.87 to finish second. Their finishes were reversed at the state group meet when Cimino beat Leyrer by .03 seconds.
"It was so disappointing," Leyrer said. "I was so upset."
Leyrer not only won Thursday but also broke the 15-year-old CAL record of 1:00.55 set by Buena's Katrina Sye.
"This feels amazing," Leyrer said. "This is the last (individual) race of my high school career. To come here and win it proves I gave it my all."
Leyrer won the only event held at the MOC. Shortly after her win, a thunderstorm struck the area. Officials postponed the rest of the meet until 5 p.m. today at Carl Sandberg Middle School.
Then on Friday, the meet was postponed again to 5 p.m. Monday. The meet features the top athletes from last weekend's state group championships.
Leyrer joins Sye (800 run in 1999) and Chelsea Salisbury (javelin in 2001) as Buena girls to win MOC events since the meet started in 1974.
Leyrer came into Thursday's race with plenty of motivation. She won the state Group II 400 hurdles as a junior but failed to defend last Friday when Cimino out-sprinted her to the finish line. Cimino ran 1:01.79. Leyrer, who led until the final hurdle, finished in 1:01.82.
Buena coach Stephanie Winkler said last Friday's race helped prepare Leyrer for the MOC. The Buena coaches and Leyrer studied the race and developed a new strategy.
"We told (Helena) you have to be leading by the 10th hurdle," Winkler said. "We knew if they were going over (the hurdle) at the exact same time that girl was going to outsprint her."
Still, Leyrer wasn't consumed with beating Cimino when Thursday's race started.
"I just wanted to get out good and have a good start," Leyrer said.
Leyrer controlled the race. Her start propelled her to victory.
"I tried to get out a lot better (than Friday)," she said, "and then tried to maintain a constant pace throughout the whole race."
The CAL record was as almost as important for Leyrer as the win. The record meant even more to her because it was also a school mark. Sye ran the time when she finished second at the 1997 MOC.
"I've been trying to break that record this whole season," Leyrer said. "To know that I finally did it feels really good."
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