Southern Regional girls track and field coach Brian Zatorski knew he had a very good team entering the outdoor season.
However, he wouldn’t find out just how good the Rams were until the second day of the NJSIAA South Group IV championships in late May.
After winning the Ocean County and Shore Conference meets, Southern faced its biggest challenge at the sectional meet in Egg Harbor Township. Through eight events on the first day, the Rams had just 23 points as Cherokee was first with 44 and Lenape second with 40.
Then came the second day. Southern totaled 60 points to finish with 83 and overtake both Cherokee (79.3) and Lenape (74) for the team’s sixth sectional championship in seven years. The Rams clinched the title by winning the last event, 4×400 relay. The final outcome was Southern’s only lead of the entire meet.
“That was one of the finest team displays in Southern Regional history,” said Zatorski, who completed his 14th season as Rams coach. “We were so far out of it, but going into the second day, the kids got off the bus with a great attitude and they were amazing. All of us, the coaching staff, were just dumbfounded. We couldn’t believe they were able to put that together to win it.”
Such a comeback actually shouldn’t come as a big surprise since Zatorski and his staff – Jason Church, Mike Concilio and Andrew Beckett – have instilled a winning tradition throughout Southern’s girls track and field program. Whether it’s the inaugural Georgian Court Invitational, the Lion Invitational at Middletown North, Zatorski’s alma mater, or any of the major championships, when the Rams show up to a meet, they’re in it to win it.
As a result, Southern won the Ocean County title for the fourth straight year and the Shore Conference crown for the sixth straight year in addition to the South Group IV championship. Southern also took second place at Group IV, again narrowly beating out Cherokee and Lenape.
“Any coach that’s been around long enough has had great expectations and watched them falter,” Zatorski said. “Not only did we accomplish what we thought we could accomplish, we surpassed my expectations for this group.”
This year’s team was especially strong, led by a senior corps that included Dana Ohlson and Samantha Rodriguez, both of whom totaled 27 and 19 points, respectively, at the South Group IV meet, pole vaulter Chelsea Vaughan, Mikaela Hammel and Michele Simmons, who anchored the Rams’ winning 4×400 relay at the sectionals.
“Those seniors set the tempo every day at practice,” Zatorski said. “When it came time to competing, they were razor sharp. This group was focused and had the same fervor and energy in March as they did in June and it was really a pleasure to be around.”
With about 100 girls on the team, it’s likely Southern will again have the target on its back next spring.
“I’m just fortunate enough to be surrounded by good people,” Zatorski said. “They want to win.”