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Byrd wins 100 at state meet, despite mishap

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. - An odd thing happened to Timber Creek sprinter Damiere Byrd on his way to the finish line in the 100-meter race Friday.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. - An odd thing happened to Timber Creek sprinter Damiere Byrd on his way to the finish line in the 100-meter race Friday.

The brace on his left knee fell off about three quarters of the way through the run for the NJSIAA state Group 3 championship.

Byrd, the defending state champ in the event, held on for the victory in 10.50 seconds.

The South-Carolina-bound senior felt fortunate, even though he had clocked a faster time - 10.36, a personal best - in winning the 100 at the sectional meet a week ago.

"I was worried about stepping on it," Byrd said about the brace. He added that his knee, sore from winning the long jump at sectionals last week, was fine and he was looking forward to running the 400 later.

However, Byrd, the defending 400 state champ, was nowhere to be seen in the 400, which was won by Ocean Township's Mike Andre in 48.56.

Byrd said he was looking forward to helping his team win the state crown again. The Chargers have won the last three Group 3 crowns.

After eight events Friday, the Timber Creek boys led with 31 team points.

Athletes in Groups 3 and 2 and Non-Public B are vying for state crowns in the two-day event, which is scheduled to conclude Saturday. The top six finishers in each event will advance to the Meet of Champions on Thursday at Old Bridge.

Byrd is scheduled to do the long jump and participate in the 4x400-meter relay Saturday.

In the boys' Group 3 400 intermediate hurdles, an unusual occurrence decided the winner.

Timber Creek's Donnie House looked as if he had won. He thought Highland's Algeron Johnson had won. Johnson did, too, saying he'd always wanted to beat House.

However, Burlington Township's Fontaine Holland, who was in Heat 2 instead of Heat 3, normally the "fast" heat, had the fastest time and won the race.

Holland, a senior, was clocked in 54.75. Johnson was second in 54.96, and House placed third in 55.03.

"I have no regrets," Johnson said. "I ran my best race."

Winslow Township's Ste'yce McNeil got the afternoon off to a good start when she won her first outdoor state title in the Group 3 400 low hurdles. The junior wore a bandage around her midsection because of what she referred to as an "abscess" on her midsection, which worried her before the race.

However, she seemed to forget about it during the race because she was clocked in 1:02.50, which topped the 1:02.56 with which she won the sectional title.

The talented junior also finished third in the 400, behind Sparta's Erika Veidis (55.56) and Cranford's Natalie Englese (56.22).

"I had a good start," said McNeil, who led at the beginning. "In the last 150 [meters], the girls took the lead. The abscess on my stomach started hurting."

Delsea's girls lead Group 3 with 32 points. Felicia O'Donnell contributed six points by placing third in the 1,600 in 4:57.48, a personal-best time.

Haddonfield thrived in the first distance run of the afternoon, the 1,600, as expected. And Ben Potts benefitted.

Potts won in 4:16.79. It wasn't his best time - his personal best is 4:14 - but he wasn't complaining. The state title was his first in the 1,600 outdoors.

"I took the lead from the gun," said Potts, who has two indoor state crowns in the 1,600. "I wanted to run an honest race and prove that I could win."

Haddonfield is tied for second place with Morris Hills with 20 points.

Tacquaya Tobias gave Our Lady of Mercy Academy a big boost in Non-Public B by winning the 100 in 12.21 and the long jump in 18 feet, 41/2 inches and placing second in the high jump at 5-0.

Tobias' long jump set a meet record, eclipsing the mark of 18-31/4 set by Morris Catholic's Vanessa Lewis in 1995.

OLMA leads the group with 34 points.