The Cherokee girls capped a tremendous year by winning the 3,200-meter relay Saturday at the Meet of Champions at Franklin High, the first MoC relay title in school history.

Junior Kelsey Niglio, sophomore Kerry O’Day, freshman Megan Niglio and senior Nicole Clifford ran 9:25.70 in windy, difficult conditions and won by over 100 meters, the largest victory margin in meet history.

Jessica Woodard won three shot put titles and a discus title between 2011 and 2013 and Kaela Schrier won the javelin in 2016, but this is Cherokee’s first Meet of Champions title on the track in 32 years – since Monica Olkowski won her second straight 800 in 1990.

Kelsey Niglio gave Cherokee a 30-meter lead just 400 meters into her 2:16.29 leadoff leg and the race was pretty much over at that point.

Cherokee is the third South Jersey school to win the girls 4-by-800 at a Meet of Champions since the event was added to the state program in 2010. Lenape won in 2011 and Haddonfield last year.

With an entirely different lineup, Haddonfield placed 2nd this year in 9:42.72.

Cherokee’s 17.02-second margin of victory is the largest in meet history. In 2018, Ridge beat Westfield by 14.65 serconds.

As for Haddonfield, two days after placing both 4th and 6th in the 4-mile relay at New Balance Nationals at Franklin Field, the Bulldogs placed 2nd to Cherokee with Riley Slootsky, Thea Spellmeyer, Sarah Fetter and Audrey Naticchia.

When Haddonfield won last year in 9:10.24, their lineup was Allison Colflesh, Payton Weiner, Olivia Stoner and Linday Colflesh.

Cherry Hill East made it a 1-2-3 South Jersey sweep in 3rd place with a 9:43.98. Alexis Tepper, Michelle Barry, Madison McNiff and Kiley Walsh ran for the Cougars.

Cherokee had an outdoor-best 9:17.77 from its 4th-place finish at Penn Relays. The Chiefs ran 9:07.27 indoors when they placed 4th at Armory Nationals.

The win gave Cherokee a sweep of the two 3,200-meter relays. The Cherokee boys won earlier Saturday in 7:54.34.

This is the first time a South Jersey school has swept any Meet of Champions relay since Willingboro won the boys and girls 1,600-meter relay in 2006.

The win finished off an unprecedented season in XC and indoor and outdoor track for Cherokee, coached year-round by 1989 Burlington County Open 800 winner Mark Jarvis.

In cross country, Cherokee this year won South Jersey and state Group 4 titles, the Meet of Champions and the Nike Regional.

Indoors, Cherokee placed 2nd in the country in the 3,200-meter relay with the No. 2 time in South Jersey history and No. 11 time in state history, took 2nd in the sprint medley with the No. 3 time in South Jersey history and ran 2nd in the distance medley with the No. 5 time in South Jersey history. The Chiefs also won the Group 4 state relays indoors.

Outdoors, Cherokee traveled to Eugene, Ore., and won the sprint medley and placed 7th in the distance medley at the Oregon Relays with 4:04.69 (No. 12 in South Jersey history) and 12:07.43 (No. 11 in South Jersey history). The Chiefs won their 4-by-8 race at Penn and went on to place 4th in the Championship of America. Cherokee also placed 2nd to Rancocas Valley in the S.J.-4 sectional and a best-ever 2nd to Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the state Group 4 meet.

All in all, one of the greatest three-season performances in state history and it ended fittingly with a Meet of Champions title.


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