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Delsea relay team used to setting records

Jim Rafferty didn't say much. He didn't have to.

Jim Rafferty didn't say much. He didn't have to.

It was another broken record - this time, his Delsea 4x400-meter girls' relay team broke its own record, set in 2010, at last Thursday's Gloucester County championships.

Hands on their hips, out of breath, tired but beaming with excitement, the four runners approached their veteran coach.

"Good job, girls. I'm proud of you," Rafferty said before adding, "And I know you're tired."

The 4x400 relay is traditionally the last race run at track meets.

And for the Delsea girls' relay team, just as for most great runners, that means gutting it out after series of individual events.

The Crusaders' 4x400 relay team - Lateaque Jackson, Brianna Crofton, Ashley Woodards, and Felicia O'Donnell - has four of South Jersey's most decorated track stars this season.

They've been on a tear individually and collectively this spring, including at last month's Penn Relays.

But what continues to impress Rafferty is the grit all four show every day.

Last Thursday's county championship was the Crusaders' third meet in a week, including the Rowan Relays and a dual meet with Kingsway - each meet was met with similar success.

Despite the inevitable fatigue, all four girls medaled in individual events before taking first in the 4x400 at the Gloucester County championships.

"These girls have such a tremendous work ethic," Rafferty said. "They've battled soreness, they've been tired, but they just suck it up and do it. We're just so proud of them."

Before earning a gold medal with a county meet-record time of 3 minutes, 56.51 seconds in the 4x400, O'Donnell, a senior, won the 800 meters; Crofton, a senior, won the 400 and placed third in the 100; Jackson, a junior, took third in the 200; and Woodards, a junior, won the 400 hurdles.

All of it speaks to the Crusaders' development as complete track stars.

"It's been such a great season for all of us," Crofton said. "I don't even know how to describe it; we've just been so successful. And we just love it."

One of the highlights of this season for the Crusaders was breaking Delsea's school record in the 4x400 at the Penn Relays on April 30.

The Crusaders' time of 3:54.74 at the Relays was also the second-fastest time of any New Jersey high school, behind Columbia's 3:51.27.

"Penn Relays were amazing," Woodards said. "No one expected us to run as fast as we did. But we all PRed. And we all just had a great time there."

All four girls credit growing chemistry and work ethic for their success this season.

"We give everything we have every day at practice," Jackson said. "That's really what it's all about."

"You have to think about your competition," Crofton said. "If you miss out on something at practice, or if you don't feel like doing something, you just have to think that your competition is doing it. And that's what makes you go even harder."

If it has been a storybook season for the Delsea girls' 4x400 relay team, the four runners will tell you that the story is far from finished. And if they have it their way, it won't end at the state meet, either.

"Nationals," O'Donnell said. "We want states and we want nationals, especially for the 4x4.

"We all love running this race. And it's always more special to win an event with your teammates."

Rafferty is confident that his team can accomplish its goals.

"They've just been so great all season," he said. "And the main thing that we're proud of as coaches is that they really work well together as a team.

"They work hard. They all come from different areas - distance, sprints, hurdles - but they all work so well together.

"I'm just very proud of their effort, their character. They're just super, super girls."