Damiere Byrd considers himself a football player who runs track.
But after his junior season at Timber Creek, Byrd will have to go some on the football field to keep up with his track performances.
"Damiere truly came into his own this season," Timber Creek coach Chris Grottini said. "He's developed into the total spring package, being able to run the 100, 200 and 400 at a very high level."
Byrd won state titles in three events, leading the Chargers to the Group 3 state team title. He also ran the two fastest 100-meter dashes in South Jersey this season.
For his valuable versatility, Byrd is the boys' track athlete of the year in South Jersey.
"The only reason I started running track was to improve my form for football," Byrd said after the Meet of Champions on June 3 at South Plainfield High School. "But it turned out I was pretty good at it."
Byrd finished second in the Meet of Champions' 100. His time of 10.42 seconds was a personal best, and the fastest in South Jersey this season. He also ran a 10.57 at the South Jersey Open.
Byrd finished second to Long Branch's Miles Shuler-Foster, who ran the 100 in 10.39, the fastest time in the event since 2000.
"It's disappointing, but it was a good season," Byrd said.
Grottini said Byrd's training prepared him to compete at the highest levels.
"He worked diligently to put himself in the best possible position when the championship season rolled around," Grottini said.
Byrd didn't run indoor track. But he concentrated on longer distances early in the spring season, building strength and endurance.
He led Timber Creek to the South Jersey Group 3 title as well as the state Group 3 title. At the May 21-22 sectional meet, Byrd won the 100 (10.75), 200 (22.46), and 400 (49.11), and ran the third leg on the victorious 4x400 relay.
At the May 28-29 state meet, Byrd won the 100 (10.68), 200 (21.80) and 400 (47.88), and ran the third leg on the 4x400 relay that finished second. Byrd's 400 time was the fastest of his career, and tied for the fastest in the state this season.
"I surprised myself in the 400," Byrd said.
Byrd is a slotback in football who spends some time at wide receiver and some at running back for the Chargers, who reached the South Jersey Group 3 title game last season. He is being recruited by several Division I programs, and took a recruiting trip to South Carolina after the Meet of Champions.
"Football is my sport," Byrd said. "But I have to admit: This was a good season in track."
- Phil Anastasia