SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. - Win an event in the track and field Meet of Champions, and no one can doubt that you are the best in the state.
Win the same event in three of these lofty meets, and you are in rarefied air.
Seneca's Michelle Brown was both gasping for air and glowing in it after she won the 400-meter race for the third time in her high school career.
"I think that I'm the first girl in history to win three straight 400s at the Meet of Champions," Brown said with a flushed face in Friday's heat and humidity at South Plainfield High.
"Sitting in the sun made me sluggish. I am disappointed in my time, because this is my last 400 in high school."
The Notre Dame-bound senior's time was 55.52 seconds, a shade slower than the 54.49 she was clocked in to win the state Group 3 title last week at South Plainfield.
"My strategy was to be in the lead at the last straightaway," Brown said. "I thought I heard [Passaic's] Amber Allen on the turn, and that helped to pick me up."
Allen finished third in 56.28. Fafavi Lumax of Franklin was second in 55.88.
Brown also anchored the 4x400 relay team, which also included Christina Gall, Mary Bohi and Lyndsy Horn. They finished eighth in 3:54.26.
In the glamor race of the day, the 100-meter dash, English Gardner, a senior at Eastern, and Myasia Jacobs, a sophomore at Paramus Catholic, were tied for top seed with a time of 11.80.
Jacobs won in 11.48, a personal-best time. Gardner finished second in 11.56.
"She's my best friend," Gardner said of Jacobs. "We text each other. We talk."
Gardner, who has battled back from surgery on her right knee on Jan. 15, is headed to Oregon on a full track scholarship. She is the defending state Group 4 100 and 200 champion.
"You can say that we're like sisters," Jacobs said. "Everybody came here to see us run this race."
Highland's Megan Venables got her revenge in the 3,200.
The junior took the lead from Voorhees senior Colette Prentice on the last turn and kicked her way home in 10:37.49. Whitney finished in 10:44.43.
Last week in the state Group 3 meet, Whitney won in 10:27.74, a meet record, and Venables finished second in 10:33.25 after Whitney had passed her in the last lap and widened the lead.
"There was a change in strategy," Venables said. "I sat on the first 21/2 laps, and that gave me the energy to go at the end. I was more mentally prepared, too."
Haddonfield's Marielle Hall, who won the 800 in the state Group 2 meet last weekend in 2:11.69, was seeded sixth in Friday's race. The Texas-bound senior placed fourth in 2:08.81. Neptune's Ajee Wilson won in 2:04.94.