Chelsea Cox got a jar of rusty nails and razor blades at the Southern Regional High School girls indoor track and field banquet last week.

The jar is given to the team's toughest athlete.

Cox gutted her way through several injuries and led the Rams to the Shore Conference, South Jersey Group IV and state Group IV relay titles.

The senior is The Press Indoor Track and Field Performer of the Year.

Cox was the area's best at the 400-meter dash and 800 run, and she anchored the Rams' state championship 1,600 relay team.

"She wasn't even herself this winter, but she still managed to be a pretty dominating force," Southern coach Brian Zatorski said.

Cox began the winter with hopes of running a 4 minute, 50 second mile and competing in the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"She was a beast," Zatorski said. "She was so fit to run."

But a knee injury at the end of cross country season set her training back.

"It all spiraled down from there," Zatorski said.

She also came down with a bronchitis and sinus infections in December.

"Once I would stop getting sick," Cox said, "I would get sick again."

Still, she never missed a major meet. Cox said watching her teammates practice and compete motivated her.

"It's the team aspect," she said. "Even if you get sick or get hurt, the other girls are going to be there to help you when you fall."

Cox's strength is her versatility. She ran every event between 400 meters and 1,600 meters.

Cox's most impressive effort came when she anchored Southern to victory in the 1,600 relay at the state Group IV championships with a 56.6 400 leg.

Cox was thrilled to get the jar with the rusty nails and razor blades. She put it front and center on a shelf where she keeps the rest of her medals.

"I think it's a great award," Cox said. "I try really hard. It definitely speaks about my character and the character of the girls on the team. They're really tough. When your coach acknowledges you for always coming to practice and meets and doing your best, that's one of the greatest accomplishments."

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185