With 4th-highest point total ever, Cherokee girls roar to first Group 4 state relays championship!!!!!

Senior Nicole Clifford and junior Kelsey Niglio ran on four winning teams and senior Alison Cooke and junior Kelsey Niglio ran on three apiece Saturday as the Cherokee girls won the first state relays championship in the program’s history.

Clifford and Niglio ran legs on the Chiefs’ winning distance medley, 4-by-800, sprint medley and 4-by-4, and Cherokee outscored 2nd-place Rancocas Valley 52-32 in the Group 4 meet at the Bubble in Toms River. Kingsway finished third with 23 points.

It’s the first 1-2-3 South Jersey Group 4 finish ever in the meet’s 55-year history.

Cherokee’s 52 points are the highest winning score since district rival Lenape scored 56 to win the 2012 title. It’s also the 4th-most points ever scored in Group 4. The meet has been held since 1966 with the current 10-8-6-4-2-1 system in place since 1992:

59 … Southern, 2009
56 … Lenape, 2012
53 … Lenape, 2008
52 … Cherokee, 2022
50 … Trenton, 2001
50 … Willingboro, 1992

Clifford, Cooke, Niglio and freshman Megan Niglio opened the meet by winning the distance medley in 12:12.72, finishing 150 meters ahead of Kingsway. Their time is No. 1 in New Jersey this year, bumping Kent Place of Summit, which ran 12:25.17 at the Parochial A state relays on the same track on Friday.

Niglio, sophomore Kerry O’Day, freshman Megan Niglio and Clifford then won the 3,200-meter relay in 9:41.87, this time over Middletown South, which finished 90 meters back in 9:58.84. Kingsway was third at 10:07.32. Cherokee ran a New Jersey No. 1 9:23.85 in Lynchburg, Va., last week.

Cherokee won the sprint medley with sophomore Madison Van Haren, Clifford, Cooke and Kelsey Niglio running 4:10.45 – also No. 1 in New Jersey this year. The Chiefs finished 80 meters ahead of Kingsway, which was second in 4:22.75. Cherokee was previously No. 1 in New Jersey in the sprint medley with its 4:18.22 at a SJTCA meet at the Bubble earlier this month.

With the team title already locked up, Cherokee won the 4-by-400 by 9-100ths of a second over Rancocas Valley in a season-best 4:07.10, which is No. 6 in the state. R.V., which ran 4:04.98 at the Millrose Trials at the Armory, was second in 4:07.19. Clifford, Cooke, Kelsey Niglio and O’Day ran on the 4-by-4.

Cherokee also placed third in the 800-meter relay in 1:50.78 with senior Jillian Strauss, Cooke, Van Haren and junior Erin St. John and in the pole vault with Strauss clearing 9-0 and senior Isabella Kadar 7-0.

This is the second state championship in two months for Mark Jarvis’s Cherokee girls program. Clifford, O’Day and the Niglios ran on the Cherokee cross country team that won the state Group 4 and Meet of Champions titles and went on to win the Nike Northeast Regional championship in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

Rancocas Valley won the 800-meter relay in 1:47.33 with senior Annabella Chin, junior Kennedy Garcia, senior Sanai Jenkins and senior Jya Marshall in the lineup.

The Red Devils also won the shot put relay with senior Ravin Hood throwing 35-3 and senior Faith Allen 33-7 for a combined 68-10. They won by nearly four feet over Elizabeth, which combined for 64-10 1/2.

The top three individual throws were from South Jersey athletes. Williamstown junior Ciara Demarest (37-5), Atlantic County Tech senior Tey’ana Ames (35-4) and Hood.

R.V.’s 1,600-meter relay team included Chin, Marshall, sophomore Leah Howe and junior Kasey White. The Red Devils also placed fourth in the pole vault relay, senior Mia Paolone clearing 7-6 and junior Ashlin Williams 7-0.

For Kingsway, Nicole Lipieta, Aubrey Pierontoni, Faith Bill and Haley Brown ran on the 2nd-place DMR, Pierontoni, Lipieta, Cassidy Dunk and Rosemary Shay on the 3rd-place 4-by-8 and Lipieta, Pierontoni, Jordyn Scott and Sumayyah Turner on the 2nd-place SMR.

Washington Township placed second in the high jump relay with sophomore Dahlia Beasley clearing 5-0 and freshman Ashley Lopez 4-6.

Eastern placed third in the shot put relay with junior Savana Dodd (33-2 1/2) and and sophomore Aniyah Smith (30-6 3/4).

Cherry Hill East placed fifth in the DMR with Kiley Walsh, Aleix Tepper, Michelle Bary and Madison McNiff running 13:04.87.

Millville took sixth in the shuttle hurdles in 35.89 with junior Leah Ellis, Anniyah Goolsby, Tanya Smith and Nina Watts.

Williamstown placed sixth in the shot put relay with Demarest and freshman Evangeline Brad, who was competing in her first high school meet.


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