As she walked onto the track for one of the final times prior to graduation, Winslow Township senior Tionna Tobias pulled eight medals she had won over the course of the last few years out of her bag. She looked at each one closely before sliding them on her arms as she prepared to have her photo taken as the 2019 South Jersey Sports Weekly’s Girls Spring Track Athlete of the Year.
Many track and field athletes would have been gleeful to have that many medals in their possession. For Tobias, the medals she wore in the photo were just the ones she’s received in recent years at New Balance Nationals and AAU championship meets.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 5,” Tobias said with a laugh when asked how many total medals she won in her career. “I’m not really sure.”
Tobias leaves Winslow Township as one of the most decorated athletes in recent memory. She finished her career with a bang in June, medaling in four events in the NJSIAA Group 3 Championships to boost Winslow to a state title and then winning two more medals with a third-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles and an eighth-place finish in the long jump at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Head coach Shawnnika Brown feels Tobias’ versatility, athleticism and work ethic separated her from many of her peers.
“She’s a tremendous athlete, but she’s trained for these moments her entire life,” Brown said. “So when you do age group, you’re used to doing three and four events. We practice and train for that.”
“I put a lot of faith in the coaches,” Tobias said about her accomplishments. “I didn’t expect to be at this high of a level. I was pretty surprised at myself. I just trusted my coaches.”
Tobias’ resume is staggering. She qualified for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in every season she was eligible with the exception of the 2016 indoor season. From being a part of a state champion 4×100-meter relay team as a freshman to winning the long jump at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions as a junior, Tobias achieved more than she could ever imagine in her high school career.
100h: 13.99 pR
100: 12.19 pR pic.twitter.com/wVqXN5cKSf
— BABY.T☯ (@perfect_tio) June 1, 2019
However, this year’s NJSIAA Group 3 Championships may have been Tobias’ best performance of all. Competing in four events, Tobias placed in the top three of all of them to boost Winslow to a seventh straight Group 3 state championship. She took second place in the 100-meter dash and 100-meter hurdles and third place in the high jump and long jump.
“I’ve always been a multi-athlete, even during AAU I always did the pentathlon when I was little and the (heptathlon),” Tobias said. “I kind of got used to all of those events at once.”
A regimented nutrition plan and staying hydrated are keys for Tobias when she is competing in so many events in one weekend.
“Not many try four events,” Brown said. “She could have done six. If she could have done all six with the (4×100 and 4×400 relays) she would have done it. That’s the one special thing about her.”
Tobias’ season was a success even though she struggled at times in one of her best events, the long jump. Tobias couldn’t match her top 2018 leap of 19-feet, 11.5-inches and was unable to defend her Meet of Champions title. At the 2019 Meet of Champions, Tobias finished in eighth place. However, her final high school season ended on a high note as week later as she finished fourth at the New Balance Nationals on June 16 with a season-best jump of 19-feet, 1.5-inches.
“I’ve been having a really rocky season with long jump pit,” Tobias said. “Everything wasn’t clicking. I was doing everything right at practice, my pop-ups were good, my run-ups were good. I was having trouble putting it all together. But thankfully I put it all together at nationals.”
Tobias will have plenty of time to crack the 20-foot barrier in long jump. She is expecting to compete in that event as well as the hurdles when she hits the track with the University of Iowa next year. Brown believes Tobias is just beginning to scratch the surface of her potential and thinks focusing on those two events in college could make Tobias a star on a much bigger stage than just South Jersey.
“When she gets to Iowa, she’ll be more event-specific,” Brown said. “There’s no ceiling for how far she can (go). I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the Olympics.”