FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP — Sahmir Jones of Pleasantville High School never ran the 400-meter dash before Friday night.
He had also never won a South Jersey championship.
Now, the junior has done both.
Jones won the Group II 400 and 100 dashes at the South Jersey public school track and field group championships.
“It’s pretty cool,” Jones said, “especially since I’m a junior. I still have one more year to go and lot to improve on.”
Jones’ effort highlighted several outstanding efforts by Atlantic County athletes during the first day of the Group II and III meets at Delsea Regional. Brielle Smith of Oakcrest (Group II javelin); Alexa Gardner of Hammonton (Group III javelin); Shaunajah Davis Roberts of Oakcrest (Group II 400 dash) and Steffron Watson of Oakcrest (Group II high jump) also won S.J. titles. The meet continues at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The top six finishers in each group in each event, plus ties, advance to next weekend’s state group championships. Athletes can also earn wild-card berths in the state championships based on their performances in the South Jersey meet.
Jones’ most impressive victory came in the 400 dash, which he ran for the first time. Jones had just run a leg on Pleasantville 4x400 relay team this season.
“At our last 4x4, I looked really strong coming down the last straightaway,” Jones said. “My coach (Alan Laws) wanted me to give the (400 dash) a shot.”
Jones won the 400 from an unseeded heat, an achievement that is extremely rare. He quickly distanced himself from his competitors and easily won the heat in 50.61. Damon Rice of Camden won the seeded heat in 50.63 to finish second overall.
“I just had to run my own race,” Jones said. “It was kind of tough because I like the competition. I feel like I run faster with competition. But (Laws) gave me a tunnel-vision mindset to run my own race and stay focused.”
Before the 400, Jones won the 100, just edging Miekel House of Delran at the finish line. Jones ran a personal-best 10.8 seconds, while House finished in 10.82. Malachi Melton of Cedar Creek finished third in 10.91.
Jones started slowly. He glanced about 40 meters into the race and saw he was in fifth place. He didn’t panic, however.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I have to kick’” Jones said. “I finished the race strong.”
Jones caught House in the final 10 meters.
“He leaned a little too early,” Jones said. “I kept running and leaned at the last second.”
Still, his victory wasn’t confirmed until 20 minutes after the race, when Laws saw the official results and told him he had won.
“I worked real hard for this,” Jones said.
Saturday: Pleasantville finished second with 65 points among 17 teams. Willingboro won the title with 69 points. The Greyhounds finished second in the 400-meter relay (3:22.67) and the 800 relay (8:12.98).
100—1. Sahmir Jones P 10.80; 3. Malachi Melton CC 10.91; 6. Marques Miller OAK 11.08; 200—2. Sahmir Jones P 22.02; 5. Nicolo Adorno BAR 22.60; 400—1. Sahmir Jones P 50.61; 800—2. Quentin Bundy P 1:56.32; 1,600—6. Jackie Peschko PR 5:20.62; 3,200—6. Will Berger LCM 9:58.66; 400 hurdles—2. Quentin Bundy P 55:55; 6. Sean Geary MT 59.09; 4x100 relay—2, Barnegat 42.95, 4. Oakcrest 43.33; 4x400 relay—2. Pleasantville 3:22.67; 6. Oakcrest 3:31.82; 4x800 relay—2. Pleasantville 8:12.98; High jump—1. Steffron Watson OAK 6-05; 4. Nicholas Kovaly BARN 6-00; 5. Joseph Herod BAR 5-10; Pole vault—2. Matt Carter OAK 13-00; 2. Gary Nagle MT 12-06; 3. Myles Carter OAK 12-06; Long jump—3. Marques Miller OAK 21-07.75; 5. Malachi Melton CC 21-02.25; 6. Augustine Akpan P 20-11; Triple jump—4. Joseph Herod BAR 44-09; Shot put—3. Shawn Bumpass OAK 46-09; 5. Sean Morris BAR 46-05.50; Discus—6. Shawn Bumpass OAK 135-03; Javelin—4. LaQuai Athill P 162-08; 6. Joseph Curry CC 154-00.