The team took also home several top five titles at the South Jersey Group III Indoor Sectional Championship.
Continuing its dynamic dynasty, the Winslow Township High School girls track team recently won the South Jersey Group II and III Indoor Sectional Championship, clinching 77 points, leading to a 34-point margin over the second-place team. This is the 12th sectional win, including indoor and outdoor competitions, in eight years.
With already an impressive 13 state championships under his guidance, Coach George Horne says this is one of the strongest groups of athletes he’s ever trained.
“The team is even stronger this year than last year,” Horne said. “This group probably gets along better than any group I’ve ever had.”
This tight-knit bond seems to translate onto the track, which not only makes for a friendly atmosphere but could be attributed to their slew of success, particularly in this season alone.
At the South Jersey Group II and III Sectionals, which took place Feb. 4 in Toms River, nine girls took home a top-five finish, including the 400-meter dashes, 55-meter dash, 55-meter hurdle, 800-meter run, shot put and high jump.
“Everyone is impressed with these sprinters but people don’t realize how hard these sprinters work,” Horne said.
Teammates say in the meets leading up to sectionals, they diligently prepared not only physically but mentally.
“We take our practices serious, but leading up to sectionals, we just took it more serious,” said captain and senior Shakira Dancy, who earned first place in the 55-meter dash and fifth place in the 400-meter dash. “Going into the sectionals week, we started going faster instead of longer to quicken our feet.”
For several teammates, sectionals were not solely about rising as a team but beating PRs, or “personal records,” as well. Amid seeking both goals, the team tried to shy away any distractions and just concentrate on the events in front of it.
“When we got to the meet, we just made sure we were focused on our races,” said captain and senior Flora Ahiarakwe, who placed first in the 400-meter dash and second in the 55-meter dash.
This mindset trickles down to the teammates.
“When it’s time for our race, we block everything out, so we focus on that one race and dominate,” said junior Tionna Tobias, who scored first in the 55-meter hurdle, second in the high jump and third in the 55-meter dash.
Although the team demolished dozens of other teams, the girls faced individual intimidations, depending on their own personal struggles from the season, like the 400- or 55-meter dashes.
As captains, Dancy and Ahiarakwe felt it was their duty to carry the legacy of this team, as they, too, were once looking up to Winslow seniors.
Although they’re graduating soon, they feel the wealth of talent among juniors, sophomores and freshmen poses unlimited potential in the upcoming years, as many of the girls who clinched top prizes were varsity underclassmen.
“They’re very young, so for them to be at this point so early on is really great,” Ahiarakwe said.
At sectionals, sophomore Grace Morton beat her career PR at the sectionals, taking fifth place in the 800-meter run, which was an event the girls were specifically trying to tackle as a team and as individuals.
But for Morton, as well as her teammates, indulging in points only serves as a distraction.
“At the meets, we don’t like to keep score. That’s not what goes through our minds,” Morton said.
This mentality seems to especially be a benefit in the face of adversities.
During the sectionals, a member of the B-team relays dropped a baton during the 4×400, yet the team still came in fourth place, which qualifies it for states.
Winslow’s 4×400 team also broke a state record the day before at the Millrose Games Suburban, running a time of 3:54:99.
The athleticism and attitudes demonstrated at the South Jersey Group II and III Sectionals have set the tone for the rest of the season, as the girls continue to intently train every day, fostering their technique for the state championships, which are scheduled for Friday at the Bennett Indoor Complex.
“Our goal is to just go out there and do the best that we can,” Morton said. “As a team, our biggest goal is just to go out there and represent Winslow.”