In a span of a few hours on Jan. 17, everything came together for Haddonfield girls track at the NJSIAA Group 2 State Relay Championships.
On the track, the Bulldawgs were running away with win after win in the distance relay events. On the field, Haddonfield was near the top of the standings in the pole vault and the high jump. On the sideline, the Haddonfield team brimmed with excitement as athlete after athlete came back with medals around their necks.
When the meet finally came to a close, the Bulldawgs didn’t just win the Group 2 state relay title – they ran away with it. Haddonfield cruised to a first place finish in the team standings with 52 points, more than doubling the 25 points Holmdel and Rahway each scored in tying for second place. It was Haddonfield girls track’s first state title in any season since winning the 2017 relay championship and the first of what could be several for a deep group of talented underclassmen.
“I know during cross country season we were so close,” said junior Payton Weiner, who helped the Bulldawgs to first place finishes in the 4×800 relay and distance medley relay. “I think a lot of us expected for us to be state champions and we came up just short. So it means even more.”
A strong group of distance runners led by juniors Weiner, Allison Colfelsh, Lindsay Colfelsh, Sarah Naticchia, Olivia Stoner and senior Kat Rice showcased how much they improved from last year. In 2019, Haddonfield was unable to place first in any of the races it competed in and finished a distant third place in the team standings behind Rumson-Fair Haven. This year, Haddonfield won three of the meet’s six races and placed third in another. Also contributing to Haddonfield’s victory was junior sprinter Grace Donch, who ran in the 4x400m relay.
Lindsay Colflesh, rachel bonnet, Sarah Naticchia and grace Kegler take the SMR! pic.twitter.com/qOoWJldsCf
— Dawgs XC / T & F (@dawgsxctf) January 18, 2020
“We weren’t shocked, but we were happy about it because we already knew we were a really strong team and we knew we had the potential of winning the races,” Allison Colflesh said. “I think what surprised us the most is that we were winning all of the events at one time and we were winning by so much.”
“We have a lot of depth, but we also talk about all of the experience these girls have,” girls winter track head coach Bill Seaman said. “Many of these girls have been in this position in a meet like this. They know what to expect and they were really prepared, mentally and physically.”
Another big factor in Haddonfield’s success was its strong performance in the field events. Junior Robin Rosen won the pole vault with a jump of 10-6 with senior Grace Kegler not far behind in sixth place with a vault of 8-feet. Their combined performances allowed the Bulldawgs to place first in the event.
Robin Rosen and Grace Kegler state champs in pv relay! pic.twitter.com/eWLgWssxsP
— Dawgs XC / T & F (@dawgsxctf) January 18, 2020
“I was thinking it was going to be between us and Seneca,” Rosen said. “I knew it was going to be close. I knew it was between me and their best girl (junior Julia Greeley). We jump about the same. I knew we were going to be pretty even so I had to make sure to get (my vault) on the first try.”
In the high jump, senior Rachel Bonnet finished in fifth with a leap of 5-feet, only two inches short of first place finisher Kaia Paulsen of Pascack Hills. Combined with Rosen’s jump of 4-8, Haddonfield finished in third place in the high jump.
Bonnet is one of the few Haddonfield athletes remaining from the Bulldawgs’ 2017 championship team. As most of the girls track team prepared last Tuesday for their first fire truck parade each Haddonfield state championship sports team participates in, Bonnet reflected on the team’s last state title triumph.
1 of the best traditions in #SouthJersey is the @HMHSathletics Championship firetruck parade through streets of @Haddonfield_dt . Tuesday the @dawgsxctf girls State Relay champs roll down Kings Hwy shortly after 5. Come out and cheer! @HaddonfieldNews @Inkwoodnj pic.twitter.com/tJmRmagbZn
— SJ Athletic Club (@SJACRunning) January 21, 2020
“It’s just super exciting to be able to do it with your teammates,” Bonnet said. “We all work so hard together. As a freshman, I did it with my sister who was a senior. Now I’m a senior and all of these underclassmen are basically my sisters.”
All of the Bulldawgs believe the state relay championship shows Haddonfield can be a contender for more titles at the group championships next month as well as in the spring season. While the Bulldawgs hope more state titles are on the horizon, Lindsay Colflesh added the state relay title is something no one will forget any time soon.
“It’s our first state championship in general,” she said.
“This will be a memory we keep and cherish forever.”