By focusing on each moment at hand, the Lawrence High School girls’ track and field team put together a season filled with moments to remember for a lifetime.
The Cardinals won the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship, held May 27-28 at Northern Burlington Regional High School, giving the program its first sectional title since 1979. In addition, the girls won the Colonial Valley Conference’s Colonial Division crown and finished second in the Mercer County championship.
Lawrence ended its campaign with a 7-1 overall record and was 4-0 in the division.
“I think at the end of the season we were pretty pooped just because of the emotion it took to remember our goals and focus on what we were trying to do,” Cardinals coach Tim Collins said. “The first step was to win the division, and that wasn’t preordained. We had a lot of close meets and faced a lot of talented teams. I think we were really focused on the here and now, because we had to be.”
At the county and sectional meets, Collins said he didn’t want to “oversell” their importance in order to keep the team calm and collected.
“It was more like, we have a chance to do this, let’s just take care of business,” he said. “There was no huge inspirational speech. Sometimes, that does more harm than good. If you get too pumped up sometimes you don’t compete as well as you could. They were very focused on the day-to-day activities.”
The Cardinals’ focus was put to the test at the sectional championships. Lawrence entered the second day of the two-day event trailing Burlington Township by 22 points, but rallied to win by 13.
There were no team meetings in between days. The girls just did their thing.
“It sort of just has to happen,” Collins said. “The first day, a couple things didn’t go our way. We knew we were going to have a good day two because of the relays. But some other people stepped up the second day, which was a great thing. We have some superstars on our team, but you can’t win a county or division or sectional championship especially just with a few people.”
Mijah Collier, a sophomore, won the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles and was part of Lawrence’s winning 4×100 and 4×400 relay squads.
The 4×100 team of Collier, Kelsey Holt, Sataya Gordon and Dominique Peters established a school-record with a 48.51-second clocking. Holt, Gordon, Collier and Sofia Centeno, ran the 4×400.
Lawrence got second-place finishes from Mikayla Aime in the long jump and Peters in the high jump. The team had two third-place finishes from Peters in the 400 and Njeri Robinson in the shot put. Centeno (800), Gordon (400) and Holt (100) had fifth-place finishes and Khalin Hemingway, a freshman, was sixth in the 100 hurdles.
Robinson bounced back from a tough day in the discus—she placed 10th—to set a personal record with 37-09 in the shot put. Aime, a senior who was in her first year of track, set her personal best (17-01.75) by a foot-and-a-half in the long jump. Centeno, a sophomore, was ranked ninth in the 800, but also beat the expectations to get the Cardinals valuable points.
“Those three girls stepped up and got us points on day two that we weren’t expecting,” Collins said. “We won by 13 points, so those things helped quite a bit.”
At the Group III championships June 3-4, also at Northern Burlington, Collier finished fourth in the 100 hurdles, and set a school record with a time of 14.72 in the preliminary round. The 4×100 relay team also finished fourth.
“I feel like our team had a great year,” Collier said. “We just wanted to finish the season with a bang. Way back in the beginning of the year, our coach said [winning the sectional title] was one of our goals. You’ve got to go out and try to achieve your goals, and that’s what we did.”
Collier said the girls were confident, strong and undaunted due to “amazing” workouts and practices that brought them closer together.
“We still focused on the individual events, but we went out there as a team,” she said. “It was mainly attitude and staying focused. Our school hasn’t won a sectional title in a while, so to be part of that was a good feeling.”
Earlier in the season, at the Mercer County championships on may 14 at Steinert High School, Holt won the 100 and 200. Collier finished second in the 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles, as did Robinson in the discus. Peters, who was named Lawrence’s Female Athlete of the Year, finished third in the triple jump and fourth in both the 400 and high jump. Robinson was fourth in the shot put.
LHS loses only six seniors, like Peters, to graduation. She was a part of multiple school-record relay teams during her career at Lawrence. She will attend Rowan University in the fall, where she will play basketball and compete in track.
The Cardinals should still be looking forward to another strong season in 2017. Collier, for one, aims to add more to her growing list of accomplishments.
This season, she advanced to the Meet of Champions June 7-8 at Central High School. She finished 20th in the 100 hurdles prelims. The 4×100 team also completed an 11th-place finish at the meet.
“I’m never satisfied,” she said. “You always want to improve. I’m proud of my season this year, but next year is going to be something even better.”
And this year was something to always remember.
“I tell everyone that congratulates us, it’s not just that they’re good and we won, it’s a really good group of girls,” Collins said. “Good students, good kids, positive—they’re very supportive of one another. I still don’t think they realize what an amazing thing they did this year. They were very happy and excited, but I think it’s something they’re going to realize next year and even further on, what they were able to do.”