The Egg Harbor Township High School boys track and field team earned a victory Saturday that has eluded the team for years.
The Eagles are a perennial Group IV contender. But each season has ended the same - with the team falling just shy of its ultimate goal.
The Eagles can finally call themselves a championship team.
Egg Harbor Township won its first ever South Jersey Group IV title on its home track Saturday after two days of cold, blustery conditions. The Eagles won five events.
Three local relay teams won titles along with 10 individual winners on the second day of the sectional meet.
"We had our sights set on this the entire season. To have it culminate in this is great," EHT coach Ryan Smith said. "For years, we've been coming in second."
It was a nerve-wracking day for Smith, who was all over the facilities during the meet. He made the last-second decision to pull senior Curtis Fitzpatrick before the shot-put finals so he could prepare to anchor the 4x100-meter relay.
"You never want a kid to be rushed," Smith said.
The call paid off. Van-Douglas Monger, Nathan Henry, Steven Morgan (who won the 110 high hurdles) and Fitzpatrick won the relay in 43.27 seconds. In the shot put, Fitzpatrick's first-round throw of 53 feet, 43/4 inches was good enough for third place. The Eagles swept the shot put top three.
Kofi Yamoah's 57-11/2 took first place. James Plummer, who won the discus title on Friday night, took second in 55-91/4.
Yamoah's chances at defending his Group IV shot-put title came down to the competition's final throw.
The senior, the last of the eight throwers in the finals, fouled his first two attempts. He was unphased as he stepped into the circle for the final time.
"It was a lot of pressure, but being a senior I've gotten used to it," he said. "I have my own ways of dealing with it. I block everything out."
Yamoah's third put was the farthest of the day.
Going 1-2-3 in the shot put gave EHT 24 team points. That plus the win in the 4x100 helped the Eagles gain a commanding lead with four events left.
"We were happy to throw far, but we were even happier to help the team get those points," Plummer said.
Smith's jitters settled once it was clear the Eagles were headed to victory. The meet ended with him doused by a cooler of water before he sent the Eagles on a victory lap around the track with the South Jersey Group IV trophy.
Egg Harbor Township's work isn't over yet. The state meet begins Friday at EHT.
"This was our first goal," Smith said. "Our second is the state title next week."
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Brianna Angellella received the baton with Southern Regional trailing Eastern by a short distance in the final lap of the 4x400 relay.
It didn't take the junior long to take the lead. She took over before the first turn and took off, finishing out the relay in 3:56.34. It a season-best for the Rams foursome of Jenna Ritchie, Carly Burnup, Melana Hammel and Angellella.
"I thought I passed a little too early. I usually pass out of the turn, but I did my best and I didn't get caught," Angellella said.
It was the second win of the day for Angellella. She cleared 5-2 to win the high jump.
The Rams came in second in team scoring, just three points shy of Cherokee. The Rams will compete for a state team title as the top two teams in each section are eligible.
Southern had a stellar day. Samantha Burns and Hammel also won sectional titles. Burns won the pole vault (10-6) and Hammel the 800 in 2:16.27.
The Rams scored 69 of their 107 team points Saturday.
"We weren't really sure how we'd do," Angellella said. "We really had to come in (Saturday) and show what we've got."
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The wind picked up before the Group IV girls triple jump. The competitors had to leap into the wind.
Athletes struggled to reach their usual distance. Atlantic City's Mone't Gist leapt around 34 feet in her first few jumps - nearly two feet shorter than her normal 36-foot range.
"The weather wasn't the greatest," Gist said. "The wind was against us."
Gist trailed Cherokee's Elizabeth Montague throughout the competition. On her final jump, Gist went 36-41/4 and won the title.
The senior could have skipped her last jumps and settled for second place. Her jumps were good enough to carry her to the state meet next week, where she could hope for more favorable conditions.
Gist jumped again anyway.
"I didn't want second place. Second place wasn't good enough," Gist said. "At the end of the day, it's how bad you want it. And I wanted it."
Contact Brittany Grugan:
Winners and locals in top six listed
Group IV Boys
Top 10 teams
1. Egg Harbor Township 94; 2. Eastern 61, 3. Millville 50; 4. Lenape 42; 5. Pennsauken 41 1/2; 6. Vineland 36; 7. Southern Regional 29; 8. Cherokee, Cherry Hill East, Absegami, 26.
200-1. Ryquell Armstead, Millville, 22.10; 3. Steven Morgan, EHT, 22.24; 6. Nathan Henry, EHT, 22.45.
800-1. Leaquan James, Vineland, 1:54.91; 6. Cody Raynor, Southern, 1:58.58.
3,200-1. Shawn Wilson, Cherokee, 9:19.55; 2. Salman Khalid, Absegami, 9:26.66.
110 hurdles-1. Morgan, EHT, 14.50; 2. Keith Street, Atlantic City, 14.65; 3. Christian Castro, Vienland, 14.7.
4x100-1. EHT (Van-Douglas Monger, Henry, Morgan, Curtis Fitzpatrick) 43.27; 2. Millville 43.81; 3. Southern 44.25.
4x400-1. Vineland (Lamar Finney, Castro, Jeremiah Atoki, James) 3:20.69; 6. EHT 3:28.83.
High jump-1. Jeffrey-John Tucker, Eastern, 6-4.
Long jump-1. Antwan Dickerson, Pennsauken, 22-5 3/4; 2. Alskee Downing, Millville, 22-2 3/4; 5. Atoki, Vineland, 20-8 1/2.
Shot put-1. Kofi Yamoah, EHT, 57-1 1/2; 2. James Plummer, EHT, 55-9 1/4; 3. Fitzpatrick, EHT, 53-4 3/4.
Javelin-1. Rashon Sorrell, Millville, 167-7; 2. Kelvin Tull, Millville, 160-10; 3. Paul Caplan, EHT, 160-5.
Pole vault--1. Shawn Holman, Millville, 11-0; 2. Logan McHenry, Atlantic City, 10-6; 3. Tony Wong, EHT, 10-6; 4. Darwin Khonvay, Millville, 10-6
Group IV Girls
Top 10 teams
1. Cherokee 110, 2. Southern Regional 107; 3. Egg Harbor Township 78; 4. Toms River North 51; 5. Millville 48; 6. Eastern 38; 7. Williamstown 33; 8. Atlantic City 20; 9. Lenape 13; 10. Clearview 12.
200-1. Courtney Foster, Cherokee, 25.59; 5. Nabiya Garrett, EHT, 25.97; 6. Lamera Rhett, Millville, 26.08.
800-1. Melana Hammel, Southern, 2:16.27; 2. Julianna Catania, EHT, 2:18.9; 3. Victoria Thaler, Millville, 2:19.15; 5. Juliann Brand, EHT, 2:19.35.
3,200-1. Vickie Ajimoko, Williamstown, 11:08.76; 3. Kaitlyn Mooney, Southern, 11:23.06; 5. Jillian Smith, Southern, 11:26.40.
100 hurdles-1. Tifani Byrd, Toms River North, 15.12.
4x100 relay-1. Eastern 49.47; 2. Southern (Amaysia Lake, Jenna Ritchie, Kelly Fay, Bailey Decker) 50.18; 5. Millville 51.08.
4x400 relay-1. Southern (Ritchie, Alyssa Simpkins, Melana Hammel, Brianna Angellella) 3:56.34; 2. Millville 3:59.25; 6. EHT 4:02.26.
High jump-1. Angellella, Southern, 5-2; 3. Becca Phillips, Southern, 4-10.
Triple jump-1. Mone't Gist, Atlantic City, 36-4 1/4; 4. Elizabeth Schmoll, Southern, 34-6 1/2; 6. Iesha Watson, Vineland, 33-7 1/2.
Discus-1. Jess Woodard, Cherokee, 168-0; 2. Ashli Weems, Millville, 131-9; 4. Nyla Noble, EHT, 116-4; 5. Breanna Wood, Southern, 115-11; 6. Aleesha Beaufils, Absegami, 112-11.
Pole vault-1. Samantha Burns, Southern, 10-6; 3. Kaitlyn Dermen, Millville, 10-0; 5. Nicola Dragonetti, Southern, 9-6.