MADISON, NJ - Simone Kirton had a few injuries to clear before she could get her winter track season up to speed.
The Chatham senior appears ready to enter the fast lane in 2017, winning the 55-meter high hurdles with a time of 8.35 at the year-ending Pietrewicz Polar Bear Invitational Saturday at Drew University.
"Before the season started I had a sprained ankle, so I sort of wanted to ease into it," Kirton said. "I didn't want to go all out. I didn't run the first individual meet because I tweaked my back in practice. Then I came back in the Ocean Breeze and barely won with an 8.65.
"My personal best is 8.33, so to run 8.37 (preliminary) and 8.35 (final), it feels good to get back to where I left off last year," Kirton said.
Last season, Kirton battled Randolph's Elly Scherer in the high hurdles. Now that Scherer has been graduated, it's up to Kirton to challenge herself.
"I don't want to get comfortable because then I won't run my best time," she said. "Elly made me nervous. Now I try to have more tunnel vision and focus on my own race and not compete against anyone. I just run my own race and not worry about anyone around me."
Kirton also placed second in the 55-meter dash and anchored Chatham's 4x200 relay team, which placed sixth in posting its fastest time of the young season in 1:55.34.
The Lady Cougars might have run faster in the 4x200, but they got off to such a fast start they were way ahead of the competition in their heat. Junior Katie Helman led off and handed sophomore Colleen Graham a big lead. Junior Serena Riback ran the third leg and Kirton had a wide-open track on her anchor leg.
Other top peformances from the Chatham girls included:
600: Leila Kirton - 1:50.06 - 5th place
JV 55: Julie Hamilton - 8.32 - 2nd place
Varsity 1000: Julie Hamilton - 3:24.29 - 7th place
4 x 400: Katie Helman, Julie Hamilton, Caroline O'Gorman, Noelle Bessette - 4:29.65 - 4th place