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Her success goes beyond the track

Camden's Kamice Smalls is an all-around star at school.

Like most track stars, Camden's Kamice Smalls worries about time.

The difference for the senior leader of the freshly crowned South Jersey Group 3 champions is that Smalls concerns herself with hours in the day, and days in the week, as well as seconds on the clock as she rounds the track and heads for the finish line.

"She wants to be involved in everything," said Camden educator Candy Williams, who has been Smalls' guidance counselor the last two years. "She wants to be involved in all types of activities. If there's something positive going on in school, Kamice wants to be involved in it."

To the South Jersey sports community, Smalls is best known for her prowess on the track. Last weekend at Buena, she led Camden to the first sectional title in the history of the program, winning the 400-meter intermediate hurdles in a time of 1 minute, 2.45 seconds, while placing second in the 110 high hurdles (14.94 seconds) and fourth in the open 400 (59.25 seconds).

But in the halls of Camden High School, Smalls is known for more than sports. She was the homecoming queen. She is a member of the National Honor Society, with a 3.5 grade point average. She is a member of the yearbook committee.

Last week, Smalls was named Camden's best overall student in a contest sponsored by the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

"The other girls really look up to her," Camden coach Avis Satterfield said. "It's great to have a top athlete who is so focused on other things, on her schoolwork as well as her sports. She sets a great example."

Standing just 5-foot-4 with a slight frame, Smalls hardly looks like a dominating athlete. But she has combined natural speed with hard work and a mastery of technique to develop into one of South Jersey's best hurdlers.

"I really didn't start the hurdles until the beginning of my junior year," Smalls said. "It was tough at first but I just worked at it. It's a lot of technique, a lot of learning.

"I liked it right away. It's hard. You have to get your steps right and you have to keep your technique all the way through, even when you're tired."

Satterfield said Smalls focused on the open 400 and sprints during her first two seasons in the Camden program. But the coach said Smalls' work ethic and determination made her perfectly suited for the 400 intermediate hurdles, one of the most grueling events in the sport.

"She works so hard and she accept a challenge," Satterfield said. "She's just gotten better and better."

Smalls, who plans to attend Morgan State on a track scholarship, credits her mother, Michelle Belcher, with helping maintain her focus on schoolwork.

"My mom always says, 'Books first,' " Smalls said. "Everyday when I come home from school, it's 'Do you have homework? Do you have any tests?'

"It's not that hard for me, because I like to do well in school and I know I need to get the grades to be able to stay involved in the other activities."

Smalls, who lives in the Centerville section of Camden, also is an active member of the Shalom Baptist Church on Broadway. She's an usher at services and also volunteers for community-outreach programs.

"I just like to stay involved in things," Smalls said.

For now, Smalls is focused on leading Camden to the Group 3 state championship. The Panthers will vie for the title today and tomorrow at South Plainfield High School.

"If we put our heads together, we have a chance to win states," Smalls said. "We have a lot of confidence after winning South Jersey. We're going in with the attitude that we can do it again."