WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Claudine Smith of Atlantic City High School won her third gold medal and made a proclamation with a smile Saturday.
“It’s a great time to be at A.C.,” she said.
Smith teamed with Sylis Raiford to propel the Vikings to their most successful showing at the South Jersey public school track and field championships in years.
Smith won the Group IV girls triple jump and 100-meter hurdles Saturday to go with her victory in the long jump Friday night. Raiford won the Group IV boys 200 dash and anchored the Vikings’ 4x100 relay team to victory Saturday. The junior also won the 100 dash Friday night.
“It’s a really great year,” Smith said.
The meet, which concluded on a steamy day at Washington Township, marked the start of the track and field championship season.
The top six finishers in each event in each group, plus ties, qualified for the state group championships next weekend. Some athletes also earned wild-card berths in the state group championships.
Smith’s and Raiford’s victories highlighted several outstanding efforts by Cape-Atlantic League athletes.
Freshman Lauren Princz of Egg Harbor Township won the Group IV 200 dash and led off the Eagles’ winning 4x100 relay team. EHT’s 4x400 relay team also finished first.
Also winning S.J. titles Saturday: Herbert Sykes of Buena Regional (Group I hurdles); Tyler Anzisi of EHT (Group IV shot put); Natalyn Velez of Vineland (Group IV high jump); and Julian Santana of Vineland (Group IV long jump).
But no CAL athlete at the Meet won more than Smith, whose three S.J. titles were the most by an Atlantic City athlete since Steve Harper won four in 1993.
Smith won the 100 hurdles in a personal-best 14.45 seconds.
Smith admitted she had been nervous before the race. She finished second in the trials.
“I just didn’t feel that fast in the trials,” she said. “My coaches said I was taking it easy because it was the trials, but I guess I didn’t have all my energy up. When it comes to the final, I really want it, so I guess I just pushed and ran faster.”
After winning the hurdles, Smith finished first in the triple jump with a leap of 39 feet, 4.75 inches.
Smith’s success continued a standout season. She also won the triple jump, long jump and 100 hurdles at the Atlantic County and CAL championship meets.
Most in the South Jersey track and field community knew about Smith before this weekend, but Raiford established himself as an athlete to watch with his performances.
Raiford, Isaiah Whaley, Antwone Swaby and Irvin Powell won the 4x100 in a school-record 42.43 seconds.
Raiford then won the 200 dash in 22.24 seconds.
“I love track and field,” Raiford said. “It’s my favorite sport.”
Not too many Vikings have said that the past couple of years. Atlantic City has been not been known for its track and field success. That began to change this weekend.
“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “Sylis and I are both juniors, so we still have room to build.”
The final push
EHT’s Princz ran the last 20 meters of the Group IV 200 dash with a look of agony.
“It felt so long,” Princz said. “I was trying to finish, trying to get done.”
Princz continued her remarkable freshman season by winning in 24.63 seconds. Aliyah Taylor of Rancocas Valley finished second in 25.07.
What did Princz think when she crossed the finish line?
“I won, and I’m done,” she said with a smile. “Three golds, and my legs are tired. It was hot. I was glad I finished the race and finished first.”
Before the 200 win, Princz also led off EHT’s winning 4x100 team. The foursome of Princz, Jadyn Laramore, Siani Magruder and Ajae Alvarez-Tyler won easily in 47.6 seconds.
The EHT girls had an outstanding meet. The Eagles’ 4x400 team of Anne Rutledge, Lauren Maldonado Emily Cheesman and Alvarez-Tyler finished first in 3:58.49.
Rancocas Valley edged EHT for the Group IV team title 76-71.
But it was Princz who wowed onlookers with her victories. She entered high school with potential to be one of the state’s top sprinters and has more than lived up to those lofty expectations.
“It’s crazy,” Princz said. “I’m a freshman. You expect the seniors or juniors to win these. You don’t expect the freshmen to win them.”
100—1. Sylis Raiford AC 11.24; 200—1. Sylis Raiford AC 22.24; Julian Santana VINE 22.65; 4. Shaquille Boyd EHT 22.70; 400—2. Isaiah Whaley AC 49.10; 3. Daniel Fenton MIL 49.18; 110 hurdles—2. Shaquille Boyd EHT 14.73; 5. Quajon Kinsey VINE 15.47; 6. Tamant Maceia VINE 15.54; 400 hurdles—6. Benny Martinez MIL 58.78; 4x100 relay—Atlantic City (Sylis Raiford, Isiaha Whaley, Antone Swaby, Irvin Powell) 42.43; 6. Vineland 43.86; 4x400 relay—4. EHT 3:25.48; 4x800—2. EHT 8:01.10; High jump—3. Alvin Taliaferro EHT 6-02; Pole vault—2. Joshua Cohen EHT 13-00; 2. David Springstead SR 13-00; 4. William Ramos VIN 13-00; Long jump—1. Julian Santana VINE 22-02.50; Alvin Taliaferro EHT 21-00.75; Triple jump—6. Mubeen Momodu EHT 43-00; Shot put—1. Tyler Anzisi EHT 52-02; 2. Yvandy Rigby EHT 48-09.25; 6. Jefferson Dejean EHT 46-02.75; Discus—1. Joe Miele SR 160-04; 5, Tyler Anzisi EHT 152-02; Javelin—2. Yvandy Rigby EHT 172-05; 3. Joe Guglielmo SR 164-09.
100—1. Lauren Princz EHT 12.33; 200—1. Lauren Princz EHT 24.63; 3. Ajae Alvarez-Tyler EHT 25.09; 400—4. Ajae Alvarez-Tyler EHT 57.75; 800—2. Raelynne Miller MIL 2:19.39; 4. Karagan Bulger SR 2:20.82; 1,600—6. Raelynne Miller MIL 5:21.51; 100 hurdles—1. Claudine Smith AC 14.45; 400 hurdles—2. Karagan Bulger SR 1:04.97, 6. Anne Rutledge EHT 1:07.28; 4x100—EHT (Lauren Princz, Jadyn Laramore, Siani Magruder, Ajae Alvarez-Tyler) 47.60; 2. Millville 48.87. 4x400—EHT (Anne Rutledge, Lauren Maldonado, Emily Cheesman, Ajae Alvarez-Tyler) 3:58.49; 2. Millville 3:58.98; 5. Southern 4:03.61; 4x800—4. Southern 9:48.02; High jump—1. Natalyn Velez VINE 5-04; Pole vault—3. Maria Mezzo SR 10-00; Long jump—1. Claudine Smith AC 18-07; 3. Hailey Holmes MIL 17-09.75; 5. Simileoluwa Adenugba VINE 17-01; 6. Serena Townsend MIL 16-10; Triple jump—1. Claudine Smith AC 39-04.75; 2. Hailey Holmes MIL 37-04; 3. Mckinleigh Mattie VINE 36-02.25; 5. Mariah Stephens EHT 35-01; Shot put—1. Alexis Harrison MIL 36-02.75; 2. Fatima Toure AC 35-05; 3. Tereana Parker MIL 35-02; 5. Maya Terry VINE 34-10.75; 6. Fatimah Owens MIL 34-07.75; Discus—2. Michaela Pomatto EHT 112-07; 3. Lauren Bakker SR 107-08; 5. Tereana Parker MIL 102-04; Javelin—1. Mya Pomatto EHT 121-09; 3. Kira Parson MIL 114-01; 5. Natalyn Velez VINE 106-07; 6. Kari Klimek SR 106-00.