Our Lady of Mercy Academy's Tacquaya Tobias stars in four events to earn Press Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year

Our Lady of Mercy Academy’s Tacquaya Tobias missed last season with a hamstring injury but won three state titles this year.

Tacquaya Tobias was one of the area's busiest high school athletes this spring season, winning and leaving her mark on outdoor track and field.

The senior did not leave a mark in just one event, but rather in four. She had huge success in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and the long and high jumps.

Tobias is The Press 2011 Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

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"It's all been overwhelming, really," the 18-year-old Sicklerville resident said in a phone interview last week. "I'm just happy I actually got through the season without any injuries and finished out doing my best. I worked really hard all season, and I'm happy I went out with a bang my senior year."

Tobias suffered from a hamstring injury and missed all of last year's spring season. Still, she managed to finish second in the long jump at this year's Meet of Champions with a leap of 18 feet, 4.25 inches.

"It felt good," she said. "It wasn't first, but second was fine. It was a big accomplishment just getting to that meet, so I'm proud of myself."

Tobias also finished seventh in the 100 dash and 17th in the 200. At the state Non-Public B Championships, she won the long jump (18-4), 100 (12.21 seconds) and 200 (25.51).

"It was great because I wasn't able to show myself before, so it was pretty good being able to prove myself," Tobias said.

Proving herself even more, Tobias also won the South Jersey Non-Public B 100-meter dash and long jump while finishing second in the high jump.

"I set goals to meet my own records and stuff, but I wasn't sure how far I'd get," Tobias said. "But I knew I was going to try my best."

She tied for first in the 100 dash (12.4), won the high jump (5-2) and took second in the long jump and the 200 at the Cape-Atlantic League Championships.

"It makes me feel grateful, because I know there's kids out there trying to get to where I am," Tobias said. "I appreciate all the help from my parents and coaches, and I'm proud to be where I am."

Tobias has been running since she was 8. Her parents got her started in track, and everyone, including Tobias, quickly realized how good she was as it.

"It's been really great," Tobias said. "It's a great feeling knowing that I ran with the best of the best, and I'm honored to run with some of these girls and know that I'm at the top and I'm ready to go on and run at the collegiate level."

Tobias will attend Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in the fall on a full academic and athletic scholarship.

"I love when you get a victory and then that great feeling after when you win," Tobias said. "Then you know that when you work hard it all pays out in the end."

Team of the Year

Southern Regional had extreme depth once again this season. The Rams also repeated as the top local team in the Press Elite 11, at No. 3.

The Rams finished second in Group IV at sectionals and led all area teams in scoring with 86 points. The team led after the first day with 43 points. Brooke Angellella and Chelsea Vaughn were the Ram's only winners, but they had four second-place finishes, three thirds and six others who placed in the top six.

Southern Regional is The Press Team of the Year for the fifth consecutive year.

"It's wonderful, and it's certainly a team effort," coach Brian Zatorski said. "Whether it be the coaching staff or the kids, who I can't say enough great things about and their commitment to what we're trying to do as a team."

The Rams won just one event at the Shore Conference Championships as well. However, they collected their fifth straight team championship with five second-place finishes. Angellella had their lone win in the high jump. They earned their second straight Ocean County title with nine top-three finishes, two of which were first.

"No matter what meet we are going into, we always know we can count on, like, seven or eight girls," Zatorski said. "It's never just on one kid, like the Susie Johnson show and if she has a bad day that's it."

Southern finished the season undefeated at 5-0 and won the Shore Conference A-South division.

"We like to focus on the team, and we always try to build around whatever we've got and be good in every event," Zatorski said.

A goal well accomplished.

"That's our philosophy, and what we'll keep trying to do," Zatorski said. "There's a lot of pieces to the puzzle, and everyone here pulls their weight."

Coach of the Year

Buena Regional won its first state Group II outdoor title in six years under Stephanie Winkler.

Winkler is The Press Coach of the Year.

Junior Helena Leyrer won the 400-meter hurdles and collected her first state Group II title, as the Chiefs edged Bernards 32-32 for the win.

"It was phenomenal," Winkler said. "We weren't really sure if we were in the running because there are a lot of phenomenal schools there. We were hoping to be in the top five, and when Day 1 was over we were in third and we started thinking about the possibility of winning."

Leyrer also finished fourth in the 400 dash and third in the 100 hurdles. Buena's 4x400 relay team of Emely Ramirez, Casey Sturts, Ashley Roman and Leyrer took first to put the Chiefs ahead for good and earn the state title.

"We told the girls that, 'If you take this event (4x400), we could win the whole thing,' " Winkler said. "They work so well together and know each other's strengths and weaknesses. They are such a great 4x400 team. You can't tell some kids, 'If you win this, we win the whole thing,' but these kids you can because they always rise to the occasion."

"When I first started coaching, the goal was just to do well in the CAL," Winkler added. "Once we started winning in the CAL, we looked more toward Saturday meets and put more focus on them. You still want to be competive in the league, but we had our eyes on bigger things."

This year's Chiefs were on of Winkler's youngest and largest, and they went undefeated in dual meets (9-0-1) and tied with Bridgeton as they clinched their fourth consecutive Cape-Atlantic League National Conference championship.

"Even though we're very young, I have a lot of confidence in them," Winkler said. "The kids with experience are such great leaders, and the younger kids see them become successful and then they know the work ethic they have to have to become successful."

"There are a lot of great coaches in the area," Winkler said. "It's just such an honor (to be named) and a sense of pride."

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