It's often been said that defending a title is more difficult than winning it the first time. Of course, while it may be more difficult, it's not impossible.
The Timber Creek boys' track team proved that. After winning the first state title in any sport in school history in 2008, when the Chargers captured the Group 3 championship, Timber Creek repeated this season in a workmanlike manner.
In winning a second consecutive state Group 3 title, Timber Creek has earned the distinction as The Inquirer's boys' track team of the year.
The Chargers also won their second straight South Jersey Group 3 championship, beating a strong field that included runner-up Delsea, Kingsway, and Seneca.
In dual-meet competition, Timber Creek went 5-0 to capture the Olympic Conference Patriot Division. The Chargers also won the Woodbury Relays Group 3 title, and were the Division II champs in the Camden County championships.
Timber Creek graduated only two seniors from its 2008 team, so the pressure was considerable for the Chargers to repeat.
"One of the keys was that we had great leadership this year," said Chris Grottini, who just completed his seventh season guiding the Chargers.
This was a team that won with balance and depth more than flash and dash. To demonstrate the depth, 34 Timber Creek athletes scored dual-meet points.
"We didn't set the world on fire a lot of times, but we were consistent all year and the kids never let down," Grottini said.
That doesn't mean there weren't some over-the-top individual performers. Senior Eric Smith won the state Group 3 championship in the triple jump for the second consecutive year.
Classmate Montez Blair also won a second consecutive Group 3 state title in the high jump. He was also the South Jersey Group 3 champion in the long jump.
Junior Matt Huckabee won the discuss championship at the Penn Relays and was also the South Jersey Group 3 champion in that event.
Sophomore Damiere Byrd won the South Jersey Group 3 title in the 100 meters. Senior Saliym Starkey was the South Jersey Group 3 champion in the 400 hurdles.
The other key seniors included Allen Jackson (400, 800, 1600); Ashton King (110 hurdles, long jump, triple jump); Sonny Preap (javelin); Ethan Robinson (pole vault); and Mike Short (800, 1,600, 3,200).
Among the other key non-seniors were freshman Quanzell Lambert (shot, discus, javelin); sophomore Donnie House (hurdles and 800); sophomore John Njoku (400 hurdles, 800); junior Derrick Henry (200, 400, 800); junior Eddie Radden (100, 200, 400); and junior Justin Rivera (shot, discus, javelin).
"With a veteran team back we were wondering how all the expectations would be handled," Grottini said. "The youngsters really handled things well."
The results back up that assessment.