Claudine Smith finished her high school track and field career at her best.
The Atlantic City High School senior won the triple jump and finished second in the 100-meter hurdles at the Meet of the Championships. Smith set personal bests in both events — a Cape-Atlantic League record of 42 feet, 2 inches in the triple jump and a time of 13.67 seconds in the hurdles.
Smith is The Press Girls Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“Usually at Meet of Champs (in past years), I’ve already peaked,” she said. “To set (personal records) and to continue to do bigger jumps and run faster times was different for me. I was proud I was able to do that.”
Few Atlantic City athletes have accomplished what Smith has. In her outdoor track and field career, she won three state, seven South Jersey, six Cape-Atlantic League and six Atlantic County championships.
“Everybody at the school kind of looks at me as a track star, and that feels exciting,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve made them proud, and I’ll continue to make them proud even after I graduate.”
Smith is most proud of her triple jump win at the MOC. She had won the 55 hurdles at the indoor track and field MOC in the winter.
“I wanted a Meet of Champs (win) outdoors really badly,” she said. “I had gotten one indoors. To get two in my last year was really great, and not only did I get first place, but it was my best performance.”
Smith will continue her career at NCAA Division I Rutgers University.
“The future is bright as long as I keep focused, determined and set goals,” she said. “I love setting goals. That keeps me driven to my sport and my passion. I’m just going to continue to set goals and be the best I can be and hopefully make some history at Rutgers as well.”
Team and Coach of the Year
The Millville High School girls track and field had a season of firsts.
The Thunderbolts won the South Jersey Group IV championship — the first sectional title in the program’s history.
Millville and Rancocas Valley Regional shared the state Group IV championship — the first time in the Thunderbolts’ history they had ever won or shared a state title.
Millville won the Cumberland County title and finished first in all 16 of the meet’s events. The Thunderbolts also finished 8-0 in dual meets and won the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference.
The Thunderbolts are The Press Team of the Year, and Millville coach Raffael Craig is The Press Coach of the Year.
“The key,” Craig said, “was everyone buying into the training and understanding that it’s what they do all year long that matters.”
The Thunderbolts featured numerous standouts.
Freshman Bryanna Craig, Raffael’s daughter, excelled at the high jump, long jump and 400 dash.
Senior Malea Broome showed her versatility in the sprints and hurdles. Kira Parsons set the school record in the javelin, and Fatimah Owens and Tereana Parker piled up the points in the shot put and discus.
“This season’s success is a testament to all the girls both past and present that have helped elevate us to this point,” Craig said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same can be said about this program.”
The Thunderbolts aren’t planning to rest on their laurels.
“I imagine one day when I hang it all up, I’ll look (back) and truly appreciate all that we have accomplished,” Craig said.
“But for now, the coach in me is planning for 2020 and getting these girls (ready) for college.”