It’s the team’s sixth sectional title win since 2011. The 4×4 team also ran the third fastest time at the Millrose Games in New York.
The Winslow Township High School girls indoor track team dominance has continued. The team recently won its sixth Group 3 sectional title since 2011 and also won the Millrose Games in New York. At those games, the 4×4 team of Flora Ahiarakwe, Shakira Dancy, Iyianna Williams and Janeya Hammond won the race and ran the third fastest time in Millrose Games history. It was the fastest time a South Jersey team ran the race since Woodrow Wilson High School in 2006. They came in second place in the state championship this past weekend.
The indoor and outdoor teams have had great success over the years, and parents placing their kids in recreational running programs such as the Winslow Elite Track Club at a young age is a big reason why.
“You start grooming them at a young age,” said Shawnika Brown, assistant coach and coach at Winslow Elite Track Club. “They start running 800 meters and eventually get to 400 and 200 meters. You start them early and they come here (Winslow Township High School) and they know what to expect. They run the same practices (at Winslow Elite Track Club), so there’s really no change.”
Quite a few of the athletes’ parents ran track and field at the high school or at Edgewood Regional High School, and they want to continue the running tradition in their families. Also, Brown said when the girls are in elementary and middle school, they know how good the high school athletes are and want to strive to be just as good, if not better when they enter high school.
“They see a tradition early and they want to emulate that tradition,” she said. “They want to be part of that next elite.”
Brown said the team a few years ago was one of the best teams they had, but the present girls are performing at the highest level.
“They (former athletes) are all in college competing on the collegiate level, but these girls at the high school are kicking tail, and they are young,” she said.
Head coach George Horne, who’s been with the team for seven years and coached at Temple University for 14 years prior, said the girls start with cross-country and then work on specific strengths for indoor season.
“Right now, we are working on being fast and focusing on speed toward the end of the season when championships come,” he said. “For the hurdlers, we make sure we clean up their technique, which helps their running.”
They still have more important meets coming up, such as the Meet of Champions and the Eastern State Championships.
The team consists mostly of sophomore and juniors, and Horne compared one of the juniors, Dancy, to Nadeen Bridgeford, an athlete he trained who went to the Olympic trials in 1988.
“Dancy’s figure, her form, she’s almost a mirror image of Nadeen,” he said. “I’m lucky to have this list of kids that I’ve coached for so many years and can figure out which workout would be best for each athlete.”
Horne said he knew last year the girls were going to be competitive this season, but not exactly to this level.
“We knew they were real fast, but Coach Brown and I, we kept wondering to ourselves, how can these kids keep getting faster?” he said. “We look at kids who were state champions last year, and these kids are moving into right where they left openings.”
Hammond said the practices can be long and hard, but they are paying off.
“Practices get really intense sometimes, but he’s a really good coach,” she said. “He has taught me better form and taught me to never give up during the races.”
Horne was recently selected as the National Federation of High Schools Coaches Association Coach of the Year for New Jersey for girls outdoor track and field. He says he won the award because of the girls and their hard work.
“These kids work so hard and they trust what we do and we trust them,” he said. “It’s always been that way.”