She arrived at Easterns as an unheralded quarter-miler who couldn’t even get in the fast heat of the 400 at the prestigious annual meet at the Armory.
She left as one of the fastest quarter-milers in South Jersey history.
Egg Harbor Township senior Ajae Alvarez lowered her indoor PR from 58.66 to 56.78 — nearly two full seconds — and stole the Easterns 400 title out of an unseeded heat Tuesday night.
Alvarez easily won the fourth of five sections with her 56.78, which was the fastest time of the first four races. She went out in 26.8 for her first lap and came back in 30.0.
Then she stood and watched the so-called fast heat.
Keira Brown of Kent Place High in Summit was first across the line right around Alvarez’s time. But when Brown’s official time of 56.82 flashed on the results screen, Alvarez had herself an improbably Easterns title before she had ever won a state or even a sectional title.
Alvarez’s previous PR of 58.78 came from sectionals earlier this month, where she placed second. She then ran 59.18 for fifth at states.
Alvarez’s outdoor PR is 58.07 from last spring’s Cape Atlantic Meet at Bridgeton, where she placed second to Tia DuPont of Our Lady of Mercy Academy.
Alvarez’s time is No. 16 in South Jersey history and third-fastest in Atlantic County history, behind Nijgia Snapp [54.91 in 2008[ and Katrina Sye of Buena [56.34 in 1997].
ALL-TIME S.J. INDOOR 400 PERFORMANCE LIST
54.24 … Okechi Ogbuokiri [Willingboro], 2003
54.91 … Nijgia Snapp [Oakcrest], 2008
55.16 … Krystal Cantey [Winslow Twp.], 2006
55.19 … Michelle Brown [Seneca], 2008
55.21 … Aliyah Taylor [Rancocas Valley], 2017
55.4h … English Gardner [Eastern], 2008
55.6h … Denise Mitchell [Edgewood], 1984
55.83 … Kiara Lester [Deptford], 2016
56.21 … Dana Burnett [Williamstown], 1997
56.24 … Aliyah Taylor [Rancocas Valley], 2017
56.34 … Katrina Sye [Buena], 1997
56.44 … Avionne Sloan [Camden], 2006
56.62 … Ste’yce McNeil [Winslow Twp.], 2012
56.65 … Britney Kott [Millville], 2009
56.76 … Simone Thomas [Willingboro], 2003
56.78 … Ajae Alvarez [Egg Harbor Twp.], 2018
56.85 … Emily Duffey [Lenape], 2912
56.88 … Marcene Jack [Mainland Reg.], 2004
56.90 … Nadia Davy [Bridgeton], 1999
This is the first time in 10 years the Easterns 400 has been won by a South Jersey girl. In 2003, Willingboro’s Okechi Ogbuokiri ran 55.14, and in 2008 Oakcrest’s Snapp ran 54.91.
Alvarez also led off EHT’s third-place 800-meter relay team, which ran an Atlantic County-record 1:42.90 after a 1:43.17 in the trials. Emily Cheesman, Jadyn Laramore and Lauren Princz also ran for the Eagles.
Egg Harbor has had several boys winners at Easterns, but Alvarez is the first girl.
Rich Winstead won the long jump at 23-1 in 1988, A.J. Vance won the high jump at 6-6 in 2012, Curtis Fitzpatrick won the 55 in 6.47 in 2013 and the 3,200-meter relay team ran 8:00.39 for first in 2016.