Willingboro's Vanessa Arientyl fulfilled a yearlong dream, and Haddonfield's Marielle Hall and Matt Nussbaum each set a record in the 1,600 meters to highlight the first day of competition at the state Group 2, Group 4 and Non-Public B track and field championships Friday at Egg Harbor Township.
The meet will conclude Saturday with the top six finishers and selected wild-card entrants earning berths at the State Meet of Champions meet June 3.
It took a year to accomplish her goal, but Arientyl finally won a state title.
Arientyl claimed the gold medal in the Group 2 400-meter intermediate hurdles with a time of 1 minute, 2.54 seconds, with teammate Patrice Rowe taking third place (1:03.75).
"Winning this race was my goal since last year, and it was worth the wait," Arientyl said. "I wanted to go out stronger than I usually do, and I felt I ran a good time. But I know there's a better race in me."
In the Group 2 1,600 meters, Hall successfully defended her title, setting a meet record. Hall clocked a time of 4:48.73, bettering her mark of 4:52.99 established last year.
"I wanted to improve on my time and push myself as best I could," Hall said. "I'm happy with my time - it's my personal best."
Hall ran the race virtually alone, leading from the start.
"I expected to be running without someone pushing me," Hall said, "and I was mentally prepared for that situation."
In the boys' 1,600, the Haddonfield trio of Nussbaum, Ben Potts and Colin Baker repeated their performance at last week's South Jersey sectional meet, and finished first, second and third, respectively.
"Our goal coming in was to go 1-2-3 again," Nussbaum said. "To win the team title again, we knew we needed to score points. There are some good teams, some tough competition, so this was a big start for us."
The trio ran together throughout the race, taking control near the end of the third lap.
"We race each other all the time," Potts said. "There's not an overall race strategy. It's just that we know what each other will do during the race."
Also in Group 2, Delsea's Brianna Crofton won the 100 (12.37) and 400 meters (57.33).
In Group 4, Eastern sprinter English Gardner won the girls' 100 meters (11.80) to defend her crown.
Oakcrest's Fabian Santiago upset defending champion Tejay Johnson of Egg Harbor Township in the boys' Group 4 100 meters, clocking a 10.73. Johnson, who won the South Jersey Group 4 sectionals last weekend, finished third (10.83).