WOODBURY - The Egg Harbor Township High School boys track and field team drew inspiration from an old coach to produce a historic victory Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles won the Group IV title at the 41st annual Woodbury Relays for the first time in school history. Former EHT coach George Wilkinson, who is fighting cancer, watched much of the meet from the Woodbury High School stands.
"This whole meet was a tribute to (Wilkinson)," said EHT senior Steve Morgan, who ran on three winning relay teams and was named the meet's most valuable athlete.
EHT's performance highlighted an outstanding day by local athletes. The Pleasantville boys and Buena Regional girls also won team titles. Three local athletes - Braheme Days Jr. of Bridgeton, Daniel Jefferson of Oakcrest and Aidan Skelly of Hammonton - won field events, which are contested as individual competitions.
The Woodbury Relays feature nearly every South Jersey school. Winners of each event receive watches that athletes value as much as any medal they receive.
"We consider this to be the South Jersey relay championships," Pleas-antville boys coach Alan Laws said.
EHT outscored second-place Rancocas Valley Regional 40-36. The Eagles won three events - the shuttle hurdles and the 4x100- and 4x200-meter relays.
Wilkinson arrived just before the 4x100.
Wilkinson - known as "Coach Wilk" - was a longtime track and field and football coach at EHT before his illness forced him to step down after the 2010 season. He coached the current EHT seniors as freshmen.
Current EHT coach Ryan Smith, an assistant under Wilkinson, let the 4x100 runners know before the race that the old coach was in the stands.
"It means so much," Smith said of Wilkinson's appearance. "He's such a fighter and it translates to the kids. They got so pumped up."
The foursome of Calvin Rice, Adam Bynum, Morgan and Curtis Fitzpatrick won in 43.86 seconds.
The same foursome also won the 4x200 in 1:30.27. Fitzpatrick ran a 10.4 4x100 anchor leg and a 21.6 4x200 anchor.
Pleasantville twins Isaac and Jacob Clark made sure their last Woodbury appearance was a memorable one.
The seniors wowed the crowd with two meet records. The Greyhounds
won four events and outscored second-place Sterling 48-44 to win the Group II title. Jacob Clark was named the meet’s most outstanding track athlete.
“People are going to look (at the meet records) from time to time and say, ‘Wow, these guys did their thing,’ ” Isaac Clark said.
The Greyhounds’ foursome of Dagoberto Arias, Noah Prevard, and the Clark twins started the meet by winning the distance medley in 10:24.40. That broke a 34-year-old Group II meet record of 10:24.9 set by Haddonfield in 1979. Isaac Clark ran a 1:51.8 800 leg, while Jacob ran the 1,600 anchor in 4:19.
Arias, Radcliffe Narinensingh and the Clark twins next won the 4x800 relay in 7:54.22, breaking their own Group II meet record of 8:00.22 set last year. Isaac and Jacob each ran 1:53 splits in Saturday’s race.
The Greyhounds clinched the team title with a victory in the 4x400 relay, the meet’s final event. The foursome of Prevard, Jacob Clark, Nicholas McBean and Isaac Clark won in 3:26.50.
Jacob Clark got the baton for his second leg near the back of the pack. He ran a 49.3 leg to pull the Greyhounds into second place.
“My strategy was: ‘Don’t panic,’ ” Jacob Clark said. “I just told my team, ‘I have your back.’ ”
Isaac Clark anchored the 4x400 team in 48.1.
The Greyhounds will compete next weekend in The Penn Relays Carnival in Philadelphia, where they will try to qualify for the Championship of America race in the 4x800.
“We just need a few more days of practice,” Jacob said. “I think we’re ready.”
Andrea Olsen sprinted to the finish line of the 4x400 for her teammate.
The Buena Regional senior ran a 56.1 anchor leg to come from behind and lead the Chiefs to victory. The Buena foursome of Melinda Mangiaracina, Aly Dickson, Casey Sturts and Olsen won in 4:05.59. The victory capped the Buena girls’ Group II title, their first Woodbury relays team championship since 1998.
Olsen said she ran so hard for the finish because she wanted to get Mangiaracina a Woodbury watch. All the other Buena girls in the race had been on first-place teams earlier in the meet.
“With about 150 (meters) left in the race I was like, ‘(Mangiaracina) needs to get a watch,’ ” Olsen said. “I think that pushed me.”
Buena outscored second-place Woodstown 52-33. Depth was the key to Buena’s victory. The Chiefs scored in all six events.
In the past, Buena always seemed to have quality sprint teams and hurdlers. But until this season the Chiefs more often than not struggled to find distance runners.
On Saturday, the Buena foursome of Kristin Siegle, Gina Testa, Janessa Biondi and Lisa Testa won the 4x800 in 10:12.32.
“Last year, (most) of our distance runners were sophomores,” Buena coach Stephanie Winkler said. “This year, by having that little additional strength, they were able to have a bigger impact. This is a tribute to the (distance and sprint) teams coming together.”
Daniel Jefferson of Oakcrest won the individual high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 6 inches.
The win was big.
The height was even more significant.
It was the first time Jefferson had cleared 6-6 since he won the Meet of Champions last spring.
“This means everything to me,” Jefferson said. “I honestly don’t know why (I cleared 6-6). There was just something inside of me that said, ‘I have to do it.’ ”
Woodbury field events are individual competitions. Only the best in South Jersey qualify to compete.
Aidan Skelly of Hammonton cleared 13-6 to win the pole vault. Braheme Days Jr. of Bridgeton won the shot put with a distance of 62-6.
Contact Michael McGarry:
4x400 - Pleasantville (Noah Prevard, Jacob Clark, Nicols McBean, Isaac Clark) 3:26.50
4x800 - Pleasantville (Dagoberto Arias, Radcliffe Narinensingh, I. Clark, J. Clark) 7:54.22
Sprint medley - Pleasantville (Kamau Bazemore, Adam Otero, I. Clark, J. Clark) 3:32.75
Distance medley - Pleasantville (Arias, Precard, I. Clark, J. Clark) 10:24.40
Shuttle hurdles - Buena Regional (Nate Niderhofer, Michael Torres, Rayshawn Scott, Kaeshaun Deal) 1:05.70
4x100 - Egg Harbor Township (Calvin Rice, Adam Bynum, Steve Morgan, Curtis Fitzpatrick) 43.36
4x200 - Egg Harbor Township (Bynum, Rice, Morgan, Fitzpatrick) 1:30.27
4x800 - Absegami (Bobby Maguire, Terrell Jackson, Carlos Galeano, Salman Khalid) 8:26.79
Sprint medley - Vineland (Lamar Finney, Chris Atoki, Christian Castro, Leaquan James Jr.) 3:34.03
Shuttle hurdles - Egg Harbor Township (Morgan, Nathaniel Henry, Andrew Henry, Jawan Boyd) 1:04.40
High jump - Daniel Jefferson, Oakcrest, 6-6
Pole vault - Aidan Skelly, Hammonton, 13-6
Shot put - Braheme Days Jr., Bridgeton, 62-6
4x100 - Pleasantville (Hadiyah Aabid, Leah Evans, April Prevard, Jamiera McCormick) 50.90
4x200 - Plesantville (Aabid, Evans, Prevard, McCormick) 1:48.72
4x400 - Buena Regional (Melinda Mangiarcina, Aly Dickson, Casey Sturts, Andrea Olsen) 4:05.59
4x800 - Buena Regional (Kristin Siegle, Gina Testa, Janessa Biondi, Lisa Testa) 10:12.32 Shuttle hurdles - Buena Regional (Dickson, Tiffany Brown, Sturts, Olsen) 1:07.71
4x800 - Ocean City (Epiphany Grisbaum, Rachel Stremme, Mary Kate Brelsford, Bridget Flynn) 9:45.78
Distance Medley - Ocean City (Brelsford, Cierra Granger, Stremme, Flynn) 12:19.46
Sprint medley - Millville (Rachell Armstead, MyAngel Davis, Lamera Rhett, Victoria Thaler) 4:11.32
Shuttle hurdles - Millville (Armstead, Tiesha Hargrove, Aaliyah Ellis, Fourth runner not named) 1:05.99