All the Clayton girls had to do to win the state Group 1 title Saturday was finish ahead of the fastest Group 1 relay team in the state.
And they did exactly that.
Sophomore senior Erica Thomas, junior Alanna Woolfolk, Leila Ortiz and Kelsey Thomas ran 4:13.41 – their best time this year by 5 ½ seconds – and beat Metuchen in the closing 1,600-meter relay to clinch their first indoor state championship.
Going into the relay, Metuchen had 32 points and the No. 1 seed, Clayton had 31 points and the No. 4 relay time and Burlington City had 30 points but didn’t have a relay team entered.
Metuchen had run 4:14.47 at the Greatest Middlesex Conference Championships last month at the Bubble – fastest this year by a Group 1 school – but Clayton won the race, Woodstown was 2nd in 4:15.10 and Metuchen wound up 3rd at 4:15.14.
Clayton had a half-step lead over Metuchen going into the final legs, but Kelsey Thomas put the race away with a huge finish on the anchor leg.
So Clayton wound up with a 41-38 margin of victory, with City 3rd with 30 points.
Kelsey Thomas and Ortiz gave Clayton eight points in the opening 400, with Thomas 3rd in 1:00.72 and Ortiz 5th in 1:01.57.
Those were Clayton’s only points on the track until the relay. But the Clippers piled up big points in the field.
Clayton scored 15 huge points in the high jump, where junior Alanna Woolfolk cleared 5-6 to win the event and sophomore Miayana Johnson tied for 3rd. Woolfolk has won four state high jump titles and next month will shoot for her 3rd Meet of Champions victory (her first state title and first M-of-C title came while she attended Delsea).
Junior Maylisa Bluford, the No. 3 seed in the shot put, came up huge with eight big points thanks to a 2nd in the shot put with a personal-best throw of 36-8.
Outdoors, Clayton won the 2021 state Group 1 title with 89 points and the 2022 championship with 101 ½ points.
Clayton is the first Gloucester County school to win the state Group 1 indoor title since Woodbury won the 1986 championship at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym.