Ste'yce McNeil is quite familiar with that winning feeling. However, victory at the Penn Relays has eluded even the best of competitors.
The Winslow Township senior won one and lost one Thursday at Franklin Field. In the afternoon, McNeil anchored Winslow's 4x400-meter relay to victory in the South Jersey Large Schools race in 3 minutes, 54.53 seconds. In the morning, she placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles in 1:48.
In the 4x400, Winslow was in second place, behind Lenape, when McNeil took the baton from Christine Ogeludo. McNeil took the lead in the middle of the last turn and held it in an exciting finish.
"It feels great to be able to win it two years in a row," McNeil said.
A hurdler of distinction - she is the reigning indoor Meet of Champions and Group 3 state champ in the 55-meter hurdles and the 2011 outdoor Meet of Champs winner in the 100 hurdles - McNeil had one thing on her mind when she ran the hurdles championship event Thursday.
"My start," McNeil said. "My [plan] was to get over the first hurdle with my left leg, and I was able to do that so I was very happy. I thought to myself that this was going to be a very good race because I got the start I wanted."
Running in Lane 9 in the second of three heats on a wet track wasn't ideal; however, McNeil led from start to finish and produced a personal best time in the event.
Alexis Franklin of Old Mill won in 59.05.
"My mom and my sisters always tell me it's not the lane, it's the runner," said McNeil, who's headed to Mississippi State. "I was more focused on running than on my lane."
In the 4x400 South Jersey Small Schools race, Kingsway freshman anchor Tyla Cooper took the baton from Ariana Waller, who had the lead, and held it until the end as the Dragons won in 4:00.77.
"I was just trying to keep the place that my team got," Cooper said.
Cherokee's Jess Woodard had the perfect prelude to the Penn Relays in the discus event on Tuesday, when she threw it 151 feet, 7 inches, a personal best, in a dual meet with Cherry Hill East.
However, when the defending outdoor MOC and Group 4 champion stepped into the circle at the new River Field facility, she threw wide left twice and only 126-7 the third time.
"Everybody has a bad day; I just have to bounce back from it," Woodard said.
Cherokee throwing coach John McMichael, who praised Woodard as a mentally tough and physically gifted athlete, had prepared her for rain by having the junior throw from a wet circle. But the only moisture was in her eyes after the event.
Cherokee teammate Megan Lacy ran the 3,000-meter championship race in 9:44.72 for fourth place in a field of 26 runners. It was a personal-best time for the senior.
"This tells me that [if] I'm PRing this early in the season, I'm ready for the rest of the season, and I'm excited," the Stanford-bound Lacy said.
Washington Township senior Dina Iacone placed ninth in the 3,000 in 9:57.12.
West Deptford's Megan Kirschling had won the high jump at the Woodbury Relays on April 21 with an impressive leap of 5-10. But on Franklin Field's infield, the Elon University-bound senior couldn't get beyond 5-61/2.