At Timber Creek, speed rules
The end of every practice could be a sectional championship race. Two Division I football recruits and four of the fastest sprinters in the state.
The end of every practice could be a sectional championship race.
Two Division I football recruits and four of the fastest sprinters in the state.
They walk to the starting blocks. They jaw at each other.
"Nobody wants to lose," Kareem Ali said. "It gets crazy. It gets intense."
Since they won an indoor state track title this winter, the Timber Creek 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams have formed a habit of giving big-time performances on the biggest stages.
And it makes sense that they thrive under pressure. It's the same pressure they put on themselves almost every afternoon.
"At the end of practice, we'll race a 200 or a 400 just to see who has the most stamina," Greg Black said. "We feel like we're racing against the bigwigs every time we practice.
"It's fun to us. When we get into big races during the season, we try not to look at it as pressure. We just try to go out and have fun."
Entering Saturday's sectional championships, the Chargers have what coach Chris Grottini describes as one of the deepest groups of sprinters that Timber Creek has ever had.
The group includes Ali, a running back/cornerback in football who already has received a host of offers from Division I football programs, and Adonis Jennings, a wide receiver in football also projected as a Division I football player.
They join Black, Jamaad Muse, Tom Baker, and Nakier Johnson - track specialists who each excel in individual events.
There is no set order to who runs which relay event, or in which order they run. But in any order, they are the most dangerous relay team in New Jersey.
In April's Penn Relays, one of the biggest stages high school track and field has to offer, Ali, Jennings, Black, and Muse recorded the fastest 4x100 time in the state this season (42.31 seconds); and Muse, Black, Johnson, and Baker ran the second-fastest time in the 4x400 (3 minutes, 16.65 seconds).
"We kept saying that we had the potential to run that fast," Grottini said. "But we just hadn't been in that situation. We run dual meets, but dual meets just aren't the same. You're not as excited. The environment at Penn really suits this group."
The team will face a similar environment in this weekend's sectional meet at Buena. Including the indoor season, the Chargers have formed something of a rivalry with fellow South Jersey teams such as Kingsway and Oakcrest.
But rivalries aren't an especially big concern to Timber Creek right now.
They might be competitors in practice. But the runners are quick to talk about the bond they've formed with each other.
It's a big reason that Jennings and Ali stay so dedicated to track despite blossoming football careers.
And as impressive as they've been already, dating to indoor season, the Chargers are confident that their best times have yet to be recorded.
"In some ways, it's similar to getting ready to play a big football game," Ali said. "But in football, you want to win as a team. In track, you want to win for your team."
South Jersey Track Sectionals
Groups 4 and 1
At Egg Harbor Township.
Friday at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m.
Boys' team to watch: Host Egg Harbor Township has a solid squad featuring weight thrower Kofi Yamoah.
Boys' athlete to watch: Pennsauken's Antwan Dickerson is a threat in the high jump, long jump, and triple jump.
Girls' team to watch: Cherokee has a deep squad that features multi-event standout Sarah Robbie.
Girls' athlete to watch: Cherokee's Jess Woodard is the state's top weight thrower.
Boys' team to watch: Defending champion Haddon Township is strong, led by hurdler Corsen Harter.
Boys' athlete to watch: Woodbury's Anthony Averett is the two-time defending champion in the Meet of Champions long jump and a major threat in the 100 meters.
Girls' team to watch: Penns Grove could dominate the sprints and relays behind Faleesha Dowe and sisters Kianje and Jaye Pollard.
Girls' athlete to watch: Dowe is the defending state champion in the 400 and could excel in that event as well as the 200 and the 4x400 relay.
Groups 3 and 2
Friday at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m.
Boys' team to watch: Timber Creek rates a slight edge with a loaded set of sprinters led by Jamaad Muse and two top relays.
Boys' athlete to watch: Kingsway middle-distance star Derrell Manhertz, a Texas recruit, could have the Dragons in title contention.
Girls' team to watch: Winslow Township looms as the favorite with a loaded squad led by sprinter/jumper Cidea'a Woods.
Girls' athlete to watch: Timber Creek's Alicia Terrell is a major threat in the high and long jumps.
Boys' team to watch: Pleasantville will be tough to beat with senior twins and middle-distance stars Isaac and Jacob Clark.
Boys' athlete to watch: Bridgeton's Braheme Days Jr., a UCLA recruit, is the state's top shot putter.
Girls' team to watch: Haddonfield has a top athlete in hurdler/long jumper Emily Carson, a Notre Dame recruit, and a deep group of distance runners led by Meghan Malloy.
Girls' athlete to watch: West Deptford's Claudia Theriault excels in the pole vault and high jump.
- Phil Anastasia