Maria Jimenez was virtually unbeaten in the javelin during her senior track and field season for Vineland High School this spring.
She won the event at seven big meets and finished second at the Penn Relays Carnival in Philadelphia and the season-ending Meet of Champions. She continued to top herself, surpassing her personal best four times.
Jimenez is The Press Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"I was so excited when I heard. It's a great honor," Jimenez said. "You see all the other people in the paper getting the award and you always want that to be you. It has definitely been one of my goals."
The senior set the New Jersey scholastic record with a throw of 160 feet, 8 inches to win her second consecutive Cape-Atlantic League title.
Jimenez broke the record (155-8) that Daina Pucurs of Demarest in Bergen County set in 2004. Javelin records in the state date back to 2003, when the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association enforced the requirement that all athletes throw rubber-tipped javelins.
Her CAL championship throw remains the third-best high school throw in the nation this spring, according to the website MileSplit.us.
"That was the highlight of my season because I didn't break it by just a foot or inches, I broke it by 5 feet," Jimenez said. "Breaking a record by that kind of standard is so exciting and I didn't expect it."
Earlier in the spring, at the Woodbury Relays in late April, the 17- year-old threw 153-6, which was a personal best, a meet record, a CAL record and the state's No. 1 performance of the year to that point.
Shortly after that she posted 154-6 to take second at the Penn Relays. Jimenez continued to improve, though. One week later she threw a new career-long 154-11 to win the Rowan University Open.
"It's honestly amazing just to go from where I was in the fall and having achieved all that I achieved," Jimenez said. "It's different for me looking at myself than it is for other people. I didn't really notice the change until I saw the paper on my wall and when I look at that now and see how much I really have improved, that's when I'm like, 'Wow,' and that's always great to see."
Jimenez was hospitalized for more than two weeks last August after doctors discovered a blood clot in her femoral artery. She underwent a two-day angiojet surgery at Christiana Hospital near Newark, Del. Doctors went in through the back of her knee and inserted a stent in the artery to dissolve the clot.
Jimenez's career reached an even higher standard after she won her first state Group IV championship (137-10) and her second straight South Jersey Group IV title.
"I was very excited about that (her first state title)," she said. "Having the state record is one thing, but then being the state champion is just bringing it to the next level."
She also won the Cumberland County championship for the second time and finished her breakout season with a throw of 143-9 at the Meet of Champions.
"There was a lot of pressure going into that meet (MOC)," Jimenez said. "I was kind of nervous but excited at the same time. I wasn't really sure how I would do, but getting second place, I cannot complain at all. It's a great achievement."
Jimenez will attend and compete for Monmouth University. She recently received her workout plan for the summer and is getting ready to take her career to the collegiate level.
"I know it's going to be a challenge, but I'm definitely looking forward to it and I'm excited about it," she said. "I'm looking to achieve even more in college."
Jimenez is as excited about her future as she is about her memorable senior season for the Fighting Clan.
"Looking back, I really had a great season," Jimenez said. "I couldn't have asked for a better one. I'm just excited for the way everything went and for everything else to come."
Boykin, her Vineland coach, is also excited.
Team of the Year
The Southern Regional team continued its tradition of excellence again this season. Most notably, the Rams rallied to win the South Jersey Group IV title, edging Cherokee 83-79.33.
The Rams celebrated their sixth title in the last seven years. They finished second to Lenape in 2011.
Talent and depth propelled Southern's surge after it had fallen behind Cherokee 79.33-79.
Dana Ohlson won both the long and high jump and finished third in the 100 hurdles. The 4x400-meter relay team of Mikaela Hammel, Carly Burnup, Brianna Angellella and Michele Simmons came from behind to win in 3 minutes, 54.50 seconds and clinch the title.
Southern Regional is The Press Team of the Year for the sixth straight season.
"South Jersey Group IV is always loaded with talent in every event, and this year (was) no different," coach Brian Zatorski said.
Southern also won its sixth consecutive Shore Conference title. At the conference championships, the Rams had four winners, including four in which they had multiple top-six finishers.
The Rams also collected their 11th Meet of Champions title, the most of any local girls program, as senior Chelsea Vaughan won the pole vault and cleared 12 feet at the season-ending meet.
Southern finished 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11.
"We had a really, really great season," Vaughan said. "It went well for everyone. We won sectionals, Shore and counties, and everyone did their best all season long."
Coach of the Year
Egg Harbor Township clinched its first Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title this season under Erika Vazquez.
Vazquez is The Press Coach of the Year.
"It was a very exciting season," Vazquez said. "The girls worked really hard and got themselves ready to go for this season. It's just exciting as a coach to see the team come together and be so determined, and that's really what you want to see as a coach."
The Eagles snapped Millville's string of five consecutive CAL American titles by beating the previously undefeated Thunderbolts 78-62 in a dual meet.
The win was EHT's first over Millville since well before Vazquez took over the program three years ago.
The Eagles also dominated at the Atlantic County championships to win their second straight title.
They finished the season 8-0 and ranked No. 7 in The Press Elite 11.
"For me, the whole season was a pretty neat experience," Vazquez said.
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