Lacey senior Danielle Leavitt had one of the best times of her career in the girls South Jersey Group III 1,600-meter run and then got her second win in the girls South Jersey Group III 800-meter run at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex on Saturday morning.
Overall, it was an impressive day for Leavitt, a future Monmouth University track athlete, as she had some of the best female individual performances from the Shore Conference during the boys and girls NJSIAA South Jersey Group III and IV sectional indoor track meet.
Leavitt, a longtime distance runner, won the Group III 1,600 race over a competitive field that featured two other seniors, Ocean City’s Bridget Flynn and Shawnee’s Julia DeSpirito.
Leavitt outlasted those seniors for a winning time of 5:00.60, her best time at the Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in that event, according to Lacey’s distance coach Steve Geiger.
“I knew after the race when I saw my time and it made me feel great,” Leavitt said of her best performance in the 1,600 at the Bennett Indoor Complex. ” I’ve always been a distance runner from the 800 to the 1,600 all the way to the 5k, distance has always been my thing. I would say the 1,600 is my best event and it is definitely my favorite event.”
Geiger liked Leavitt’s chances in the event despite the strong threat that Ocean City’s Flynn and Shawnee’s DeSpirito posed on Saturday morning.
“We knew that really the race was going to come down to Danielle Leavitt or Bridget Flynn from Ocean City because they’ve butted heads in the past many times,” Geiger said. “So, we kind of saw it as a two-person race, we knew the other girl from Shawnee (Julia DeSpirito) was a tough runner and she would be in there as well.”
And as Geiger forecasted, the Group III 1,600 race went according to plan. While Leavitt won, Shawnee’s DeSpirito came in second (5:02.46) and Ocean City’s Flynn came in third (5:03.50).
In the girls Group III 800 meter run, Leavitt won that event in 2:18.38 and beat the same girls from the 1,600 as DeSpirito was second (2:19.93) and Flynn was third (2:20.46).
Toms River North senior Tifani Byrd continued her dominance in the postseason meets with her showing in the girls South Group IV 55 meter hurdles. Byrd, the Ocean County and Shore Conference Tournament champion in the 55 meter hurdles, defeated the South Group IV field with a season-best time of 8.50 on Saturday morning.
The Southern girls team had a strong showing in the South Group IV competition with a second place finish with 49.5 points and with Brianna Angellella leading the way. Angellella was second in the Group IV high jump (5-0), third in the Group IV 400 meter dash (59.22) and third in the Group IV 800 meter run (2:21.23). Other Southern girls that finished in the top three were: Isabel Barsch in the Group IV shot put (third, 36-11.75).
Other Shore Conference girls that finished in the top three were: Toms River South’s Alyssa Wamsley in the Group III 400 meter dash (third, 59.91), Toms River North’s Halima Diawara in the Group IV 400 meter dash (second, 58.94), Toms River North’s Sarah Zollner in the Group IV pole vault (second, 10-6) and Toms River East’s Julia Schuler in the same event (third, 10-0) and Jackson Memorial’s Caitlin O’Brien in the Group IV 3,200 meter run (third, 11:33.12).
On the boys side, the Toms River North boys finished in second with 34 points in the Group IV team standings and Southern finished third with 33 points. In the Group III team standings, Toms River South finished third with 22 points.
Southern’s Cody Raynor, Central’s Jesse Brown and Toms River South’s Kyle Kroon turned in the top individual performances of the day.
Raynor won the boys Group IV 800 meter run in 1:57.83 and Toms River North’s Tyler MacDonald was second (1:59.59). Brown won the Group III shot put with a throw of 52 feet and 10 inches and Central’s John Febus was second with a throw of 50 feet even. Kroon won the Group IV 3,200 with a time of 9:35.64 and he also finished third in the Group III 1,600 (4:22.09).
Other Shore Conference boys that finished in the top three were: Southern’s William Hartley was second in the group IV pole vault (11-6) and Toms River North’s Kyle Holtz was third (11-6), Southern’s Nick Nocco was second in the Group IV 1,600 (4:27.73) and Jackson Memorial’s Ryan Rafferty was third (4:29.89), Toms River East’s Dan Gilligan was second in the Group IV shot put (50-9.75) and Toms River North’s Robert Dietlmeier was third (48-8.25).