The uniforms will change next year, but Buena Regional High School seniors Casey Sturts and Andrea Olsen will still be teammates.
Sturts and Olsen will both attend Monmouth University, each receiving scholarships from the Division I school. They’ll join former Vineland thrower Maria Jimenez as members of the Hawks.
Olsen, a standout hurdler and sprinter, committed to Monmouth months ago, but Sturts, the school-record holder in the pole vault, just recently made her decision. The two close friends didn’t even consider the prospect of being teammates for the next few years.
“It never crossed my mind like, ‘Andrea’s going here,'” Sturts said. “It wasn’t until I signed that we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to the same college.'”
“I’m glad I’ll have someone to know, it’ll be a comfort-zone thing,” Olsen said.
Sturts plans on studying business — just like Jimenez. She said the school’s business program was a huge plus, but the coaching and facilities made the difference. The close proximity to the beach didn’t hurt either.
“The location and their new indoor facilities are amazing, that was definitely a big thing too,” Sturts said. “And they’re really big with pole vault and recruiting pole vaulters and that was another big thing for me.”
Olsen’s reasons for picking Monmouth?
“I really connected with their coach, and when I went for an official visit their girls (were) so nice,” she said. “I just really liked the school in general, it’s beautiful. And their track team is very good and that was a big deciding factor, how good their track team was.”
Sturts is going to Monmouth as a pole vaulter — she’s cleared 10 feet, 7 inches, with limited instruction — but she is also a standout in the hurdles and mid-distance events, so she hasn’t ruled out multi-discipline events such as the heptathlon or pentathlon.
“I think that would be a good thing for me even though pole vault is my favorite, main thing, I do all these other events,” Sturts said. “But you never know until you get there.”
With former Chief Helena Leyrer running at Mount St. Mary’s on scholarship, Buena has now produced three D-I track and field athletes and counting over the last two seasons alone.
Ramirez coming back soon
The cold weather that plagued the early part of the spring season sidelined at least one victim. Buena senior Emely Ramirez suffered a strained hamstring in the middle of March. The standout jumper and mid-distance runner was expected to miss around six weeks, but fortunately for the Chiefs, could be back sooner.
Coach Stephanie Winkler said Ramirez recently tested out her leg and reported no lingering effects. She could return Saturday if cleared by a doctor.
“It wasn’t as severe as they thought it was,” Winkler said.
Winkler said the weather definitely played a factor in Ramirez’s injury.
“We’ve had 40-degree days,” Winkler said. “It’s tough as a coach because you have to make a decision: Do I baby them because I know the weather is bad? But the whole month of March was bad, so what were we supposed to do? Not practice or practice three days a week? So it was hard.”
The Chiefs still managed to win the Division I track title at the Jim Camburn Relays on Saturday without the services of Ramirez, which was a huge confidence booster for the team.
With two divisions, separate track and field titles and both boys and girls in action at Buena on Saturday, some strong performances that don’t bring home hardware are easy to overlook. That was the case with the Vineland boys, who placed second behind Egg Harbor Township in the Division II track standings.
“We had a very good day,” Vineland coach Elliott DeShields said. “We had a very good meet Saturday.”
It was also promising for the future. While the most familiar names — Leaquan James Jr., Lamar Finney and Christian Castro — performed well, they’re all seniors. But DeShields said he was excited to see some younger guys step up.
Sophomore Jeremiah Atoki has been strong in the jumps. His brother, junior Chris Atoki, is turning into a solid sprinter and fellow juniors Ian Parr and Otis White both performed well in the discus.
“We’ve got a very nice young core, which I’m very, very happy about,” DeShields said.
It’s also a good sign for a Vineland team that had some question marks outside the seniors coming into the year.
“Some of the guys, they’re stepping up, they’re performing better, it makes you feel a whole lot better,” DeShields said.
The Jim Camburn Relays — formerly the Buena Relays — have long been notorious for brutal weather. Regardless of the trends and forecasts, the winds seem to be at gale-force and the temperatures are rarely conducive to running. In fact, last year’s meet was delayed a few hours because of the cold.
This year, however, it was sunny skies and a brisk 50 degrees.
“It was good,” Millville’s Ashli Weems said. “In the beginning it wasn’t all that great, but finally a change, it’s just always cold. And competing in cold weather is not the best thing, but you adjust to stuff.”
The early part of the meet was still windy and the field performances were understandably down, but by the afternoon, the wind died down and athletes could enjoy, for once, nice weather.
The Delsea girls started the season on the right foot, winning the Camden-Gloucester Relays at Pennsauken High School on Saturday. The Crusaders scored 163 points to easily beat out second-place Pennsauken (130).
Delsea took first in the 4×200-meter hurdles, 4×200, 4×800, 4×1,600, shuttle hurdles, high jump, long jump, pole vault, shot put and discus.
On the boys’ side, Delsea was second with 140 points, just three behind Deptford. Senior thrower and South Carolina-bound Josh Awotunde helped the Crusaders win the shot put and discus with marks of 55-1 and 169-11, respectively.
We will run top times and distances from local athletes beginning in next week’s notebook. Coaches are encouraged to email a list of top performances by their athletes to email@example.com by Monday.