Despite losing standout Meagan Thornton, Millville returns many talented athletes who bring depth on both the track and in the field. The Thunderbolts went undefeated last year (8-0) and are the five-time defending American Conference and Cumberland County champions. The ’Bolts return versatile runner Victoria Thaler, a sophomore. South Jersey Group IV discuss winner Ashli Weems and indoor Press All-Star Alexis Kennedy return as the team’s top throwers. Seniors Janeese Barber and Brianna Springsteadah will lead the team as it looks to continue its conference and county domination.
Distance and middle distance are the Red Raiders’ strengths. Standout junior Mary Kate Brelsford returns along with seniors Kelly Williamson and Fran Babore. The team is larger than years past, but has a lot of young athletes, including 16 freshmen and 16 sophomores.
Egg Harbor Township
The Eagles return a talented group with a lot of depth (the key to a 7-1 season a year ago). They won the Atlantic County championship for the first time in 20 years and are motivated to repeat that success. There are 120 girls and a solid core of top returning upper classmen with a lot of experience. Egg Harbor Township did not lose a lot to graduation and also welcomes newcomers who are showing a lot of potential. The Eagles also have a lot of versatile athletes, including Katie Champion, who recently started long jumping and already is close to breaking the school record, Abby Schaffer, Juliann Brand and Lola Agabalogun. Head coach Erica Vazquez said the Eagles hope to make more of a statement at the sectional level this season.
The Braves should be strong in the field and with Katie Juniewicz and the distance team. The Braves will continue to rebuild this year, but return Youssara Amari, Shakera Snyder and Talyor Bates. Lindsey Jarolman, Madison Stephens and Rachel Edwards should all be factors this year and all have at least two years of experience. Absegami’s goals are to reach .500 in dual meets (after posting a 3-6 record last season) and to be competitive at the relay events.
Lower Cape May Regional
The Caper Tigers have their largest team in five years. LCM hopes to improve from a 3-6 record and looks to specialize in certain events. The team inexperienced with 10 newcomers, but has potential.
The Mustangs have plenty of depth, but half the team is freshmen or first-time sophomores. The Mustangs are coming off a 6-2 season and expect to contend in each event. They return six varsity starters, including Corinne Mooney, Liz Chelius and Tracey Masterson.
Long jumper Mone’t Gist leads a young team. A versatile athlete, she broke the school record last season in the long jump and won the the Atlantic County championship. Thrower Angela Tucker, a senior, also returns and has a lot of experience and leadership skills. The team is looking to improve on its 4-4 mark from last season.
The Blue Devils went 5-6 last season and continue to improve each year. The team is young, but has a strong leader in Christin Bettis, who qualified for the Meet of Champions in the 3,200-meter run. The senior is one of the area’s top athletes. The Blue Devils have a good amount of returning letter-winners and welcome six newcomers as they look to record a winning season.
The Fighting Clan look toward their top two athletes — Press All-Star Maria Jimenez and sprinter Antoinette Isekeneebe — to lead them. Vineland has a smaller team with a lot of freshmen. Sophomore Ta’Shay Henderson and freshman Tiah Brown are among the top newcomers.
The Falcons are rebuilding with a young group that lacks experience. However, the girls are experimenting with new events. They do return four senior starters and junior javelin thrower Rachel Steelman. Last season was her first time throwing and she finished 10th at the Group IV championships. Oakcrest is looking to improve individually and as a team, as second-year head coach Jaclyn Tantum looks for her, and the team’s, first win.
The Panthers return a large group but also have a lot of inexperience. Senior Yvonne Wolef looks to add to her many accomplishments from last year, including a South Jersey Group II title in the 200-meter dash. The Panthers hope to improve on a 5-3-2 record as Samantha Polis starts her second year as coach.
The Bulldogs always are a top contender in the National Conference. This year, the Bulldogs’ strengths lie in the throws, sprints and jumps. They lack depth in the hurdles and pole vault. They went 9-1-1 and last season with their only loss coming to Holy Spirit and tying Buena Regional. Nick Brown takes over as coach and said he would like to see everyone contribute in their pursuit of a conference title.
Ashley Canty and Ruby Rodriguez both return to lead the Greyhounds look to improve on last year.
The Spartans have a younger team than in previous years and lacks experience. They do have numbers, however, and return leadership in distance runners Bridget Flynn and Kelly Foryes. Nada Jarvis and Emily Higbee also return for the Spartans, who went 9-1 last season, losing only to conference champion Buena Regional.
The Wildcats have a smaller team that lacks depth and experience in jumps, weights and distance as they rebuild. They lost a lot to graduation, including sprinter Sarah Bariglio. Tykeemah White returns after a second-place finish in the 55-meter dash at states during the indoor season. Ashley Leyden also returns after a successful 2011 outdoor season.
After going (6-3-1) last season, the Pirates return varsity letter-winners in sprints, jumps and hurdles. The program sent eight athletes to the state meet last year and is looking to be even more competitive this season. Cedar Creek still is young and lacks depth in distance and throws. Juniors Michelina Hesse and Mercina Stefanski lead a small team in just its second year as a varsity program.
The team has just nine girls, with the strength coming in distance runners Emily Johnson, Grade Lederer, and Rachel Wuko. Coach Michael Scythes expects to see success from long jumper Leah Yost this season.
Our Lady of Mercy Academy
The Villagers went winless last season and lost standout and The Press Athlete of the Year Tacquaya Tobias to graduation. It will be up to younger athletes to step forward to make OLMA competitive.
The Rams return many talented athletes. Leading a large group of key returners are seniors Samantha Rodriguez, Michele Simmons, Chelsea Vaughan, Dana Ohlson and Rachel Heussner. Vaughan was a Press All-Star this winter and won the Meet of Champions with a state-best pole vault of 12 feet, 6 inches. She also finished first at the state and South Jersey Group IV championships and the Eastern States Championships. The Rams also have a large group of newcomers and look to be very competitive at the county, conference and state levels again this year.
Distance runner Danielle Leavitt leads a young Lions team. The sophomore had a breakout rookie season in cross country this fall and won the state Group III 800 championship and the South Jersey Group III 800 and 1,600 runs in the winter.
The Bengals went 4-1 last year and return many of their athletes. The Bengals hope to be a contender for the B-South title, but are not as deep compared to other teams in the conference. They return 14 varsity starters, including Alexis Conte.
The Wildcats have a large team featuring about 45 girls. They may be the underdogs in the conference, but first-year coach Jason Capelli feels that will provide motivation for the Wildcats. The distance runners have been running together since the indoor season. Senior Mary Leach leads a team that seems to be coming together nicely. The Wildcats also have many young, talented athletes, including sophomore sprinter Kirsten Holloway and freshman Amanda Allikmaa.
The Warriors have a small team and lack depth. They have four returning athletes, including distance runner Sinai Pelaez. The team is looking to continue to build the program and is relying on its leaders to take this season to the next level.