Allentown’s Jessica Lyons wins state group title in 800-meter run

On June 2 at Central Regional High School in Bayville, Jessica Lyons accomplished something that some runners wait a whole career to pull off.

The Allentown High School freshman, who is in her first year of running girls’ track and field, won the NJSIAA Group 3 championship in the 800-meter run. She finished the race in 2:13.98, eclipsing four other runners on the home stretch of the race.

With the time of 2:13.98, Lyons broke Allentown’s program record for the 800-meter run for the fourth time this spring. The record was 2:20.00 going into the season.

And that was not even the only record Lyons broke at the state group meet. On May 31 at Central Regional, the freshman finished the 400-meter dash in 58.15. She placed ninth in the event but set the Redbirds’ new program mark.

The previous record had stood for 21 years.

“That was pretty awesome for a freshman,” said Allentown coach Rick Smith. “No one touched it in 21 years but a freshman in her first year knocked it out.”

“She had a busy weekend,” Smith added. “It was pretty amazing.”

Lyons has had a busy year. In the winter, she qualified for the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet on March 8 in New York City. This spring, she also won the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional championship in the 800-meter run on May 25 at Jackson Liberty High School. Lyons completed that race in 2:18.21.

Her sterling freshman campaign continued on June 8 at Northern Burlington County Regional High School in Columbus, in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Lyons placed ninth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:16.76.

She wasn’t totally satisfied with her performance, but she was proud to be the only freshman in the 36-runner field.

“I feel crazy accomplished,” Lyons said. “It feels so great knowing I made it to this level.”

The rookie’s season is not quite over yet, either. On June 13 in Greensboro, N.C., Lyons will participate in the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet.

After that meet, Lyons will get a summer to breathe. But then she will embark on her next athletic challenge: making Allentown’s varsity girls’ soccer team.

Soccer was Lyons’ childhood sport. She only picked up track in the winter to get in shape for soccer. It just turned out she was a natural.

Smith likes his athletes to run track in all three seasons, but he is perfectly ok with Lyons playing soccer. The fall sport involves more running than most other non track sports, so it complements both winter and spring track.

“She has always been quick because she plays soccer,” Smith said. “Running cross-country in the fall would make her stronger for the 400 and the 800. But soccer will help her too.”

“We’ll be happy to get her in the winter and spring,” he added. 

But there is no doubt that Lyons is almost as much of a runner as she is a soccer player at this point. She is too good not to be.

The future is bright for this freshman, especially because she’s a hard worker who also doesn’t worry too much, a rare combination.

“She’s a hard working kid who does everything that’s asked of her,” Smith said. “She’s very positive, always singing and messing around. It’s great to have her.”