BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - Bridget Flynn of Ocean City High School ran around the track in the cold and the wind Friday night.
She was in her element.
Flynn pulled away on the last lap to win the 1,600-meter run at the state Group III championships at Buena Regional High School. Flynn is used to running in inclement conditions as spring weather in Ocean City is often windy and cold because of the nearby ocean.
"I don't think I've done a track workout at Ocean City where it wasn't this windy," she said. "I'm just glad it wasn't raining. It was fine."
Flynn's performance highlighted multiple outstanding efforts by local athletes during the first day of the S.J. Group II and III championships at Buena Regional.
Andrea Olsen of Buena Regional won two events - the 400 hurdles and 400 dash.
Eight other local athletes - Garry Melton of Cedar Creek (Group II 100 dash); Braheme Days Jr. of Bridgeton (Group II discus) Isaac Clark of Pleasantville (Group II 400 dash); Jacob Clark of Pleasantville (Group II 1,600 run); Rayshawn Scott of Buena Regional (Group II high jump); Daniel Jefferson of Oakcrest (Group III high jump); Shatina Squair of Pleasantville (Group II javelin) and Brianna Young of Barnegat (Group II shot put) - won South Jersey titles.
The meet continues at 10 a.m. today. The top six finishers in each event in each group, plus ties, advance to the state group championships next weekend. Most athletes from the top two teams in each group also qualified for the state group championships.
The meet was held in chilly temperatures that many longtime coaches said were the coldest they could remember for a sectional meet.
Flynn won in 5 minutes, 3.99 seconds. Chelsea Smith of Toms River South ran 5:06.71 to finish second. Flynn beat a talented field that included Danielle Leavitt of Lacey Township (third in 5:07.45) and Lauren Zodl of Pinelands Regional (sixth in 5:09.89).
The field ran as a pack for the first three laps. Flynn ran the final 400 in 71 seconds.
"I felt really comfortable, probably too comfortable," she said. "I probably should have went a little bit earlier because I really wasn't that happy with my time."
But the race taught Flynn a lesson she can use in upcoming races.
"I was just scared to go too soon," she said. "I'm not sure what I have in me right now. I'm not sure how good of shape I'm in. But (Friday's race) proved I'm in a lot better shape than I thought."
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Andrea Olsen needed some energy between her races, so she went to her old staple - mozzarella sticks from the Buena concession stand.
"I always get mozzarella sticks," she said. "I time it out. I can't eat them too close to my next race. They're like my race food."
Olsen ordered the sticks a few minutes after she won the 400 hurdles, the meet's first event.
Olsen got off to a bad start in the race.
"Pretty much everybody beat me to the first hurdle," she said.
Olsen cleared the final hurdle just behind Haddonfield's Olivia Blaber. But Flynn easily outsprinted Blaber to the finish line. Olsen won in 1:03.33 seconds, while Blaber ran 1:04.13.
"I knew if I kept up with her I could get her in the end," Olsen said.
Nearly four hours later, Olsen easily won the 400 dash, finishing in 57.38 seconds.
"The wind was horrible," she said, "But I didn't feel bad at all. It's exciting to win (two events). With the weather, I wasn't too sure of what my times would be but I'm happy with the times I ran."
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Braheme Days Jr. showed he's ready for the championship season.
Days won the discus with a S.J. Group II meet record throw of 185 feet, breaking his own mark of 177-5 set in 2011.
"We worked really hard this season," Days said, "and we're just starting to see the improvement. (Friday) was a really good day, but I think there's a lot more in the tank."
Days, a senior, missed last spring's Meet of Champions with a knee injury. He's healthy this spring as he's thrown at least 185 feet in the discus in four straight meets. Days is the favorite in the Group II shot put today.
"I feel lucky," Days said. "An injury is one of those things you can't really foresee. It's such a bummer. But it's something you learn from. This year I've been trying to take care of myself and I've been getting in better shape lately."
* * *
Buena's Rayshawn Scott did plenty of jumping, including a hop over a fence to speak with a reporter after he was done competing.
Scott won the high jump with a leap of 5-10. He then finished second in the triple jump with a distance of 42-7.75.
The weather made it tough for jumpers to exceed their personal bests. Scott has high jumped 6-6 in the past. But height and distance were secondary to winning Friday.
Daniel Jefferson of Oakcrest, who has also cleared 6-6 in the past, faced the same weather troubles as Scott. Jefferson cleared 6-2 to win Group III. But what was important for Jefferson was that he won the high jump for the second straight year.
"It was really cold day. I was afraid it was going to rain," Scott said. "When it comes to things like this, you have to give the best that's in you. I'm happy. I came up away with something I wanted to and next week is another week."
And, they hope, it will be warmer.
Contact Michael McGarry:
100 dash-1. Gary Melton, Cedar Creek, 10.91; 3. Terrance Toney, Middle Township, 11.23; 6. Quadir Albright, Buena, 11.39.
400 dash-1. Isaac Clark, Pville, 49.76; 2. Jacob Clark, Pville, 50.26; 3. Anthony Forrest, Buena, 51.12.
1,600 run-1. Jacob Clark, Pville, 4:22.84; 6. Kenny Hunter, Bridgeton, 4:33.68.
4x800 relay-4. Barnegat (Trevor Odgers, Joseph Mandara, Zachary Algaze, Connor Ross) 8:27.54; 5. Pleasantville (Alvaro Perdomo, Radcliffe Narinensingh, Noah Prevard, Dagoberto Arias) 8:31.66.
High jump-1. Rayshawn Scott, Buena, 5-10; 2. Tyriq Adams, Pville, 5-8.
Shot put-1. Braheme Days, Jr., Bridgeton, 185-0; 4. Darryl Guilford, Buena, 141-2; 5. John Mooers, Middle Township, 141-0.
Triple jump-2. Rayshawn Scott, Buena, 42-7.75; 5. Kyree Johnson, Middle Township, 40-11.50.
400 dash-6. Ishmael Muhammad, Oakcrest, 51.24.
400 hurdles-2. Brandon Babcock, Hammonton, 57.35.
4x800-4. Ocean City (Edward Keenan, Adam Walawender, Vernon Nicholson, Louis Paone, Kevin Scott) 8:18.82.
High jump-1. Daniel Jefferson, Oakcrest, 6-2; 2. Edward Williams, Cumberland, and Shane Bush, Oakcrest, 6-0; 6. Ryan Givens, Ocean City, 5-10.
Triple jump-3. LaDarrell Dixon, Oakcrest, 43-1.50; 4. Chase Toliver, Oakcrest, 43-0; 5. Ishmael Muhammad, Oakcrest, 42-10.50.
400 dash-1. Andrea Olsen, Buena, 57.38; 5. Erin Frank, Barnegat, 1:00.92.
1,600 run-3. Samantha Alvarez, Barnegat, 5:22.18; 5. Lisa Testa, Buena, 5:23.62.
400 hurdles-1. Andrea Olsen, Buena, 1:03.33; 4. Leah Evans, Pville, 1:08.66.
4x800 relay-4. Buena (Kristin Siegle, Gina Testa, Janessa Biondi, Lisa Testa) 10:19.01.
Long jump-4. Michelina Hesse, Cedar Creek, 15-6.25.
Javelin-1. Shatina Squair, Pville, 115-10; 3. Brianna Young, Barnegat, 96-7; 5. Lynn Brown, Buena, 95-9; 6. Samone Jones, Bridgeton, 92-4.
Pole vault-2. Casey Sturts, Buena, 10-0; 4. Aly Dickson, Buena, 8-0.
Shot put-1. Brianna Young, Barnegat, 41-4; 4. Samone Jones, Bridgeton, 35-6; 5. Kamyra Segers, Bridgeton, 35-2.50.
400 hurdles-5. Noel Labb, Hammonton, 1:07.26.
1,600 run-1. Bridget Flynn, Ocean City, 5:03.99; 3. Danielle Leavitt, Lacey, 5:07.45; 6. Lauren Zodl, Pinelands, 5:09.89.
4x800-2. Ocean City (Mary Kate Brelsford, Epiphany Grisbaum, Rachel Stremme, Bridget Flynn) 10:05.90.
Shot put-4. Christian Donall, Mainland, 33-8.50.
Javelin-2. Farris Ellington, Hammonton, 112-0; 3. Taylor Downey, Hammonton, 112-0; 6. Noel Hartmann, Pinelands, 101-9.
Long jump-6. Seiarah Dennis, Oakcrest, 16-2.25.
Pole vault-5. Maryann Oberg, Ocean City, 8-6