Montclair High track & field off to fast start in 2021
Photo by Keith Adams
by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School track and field team finally got to compete at Woodman Field again, on Monday, May 3, as it hosted Irvington for the first home meet of the season, with the boys winning 78-36 and the girls winning 69-28.
With wins over Millburn (boys, 57-56; girls, 64-45) and Payne Tech (boys, 93-11; girls, 69-17) that brings the regular season record of both the boys and girls teams to 3-0.
Normally, the team would have already hosted — or would have been planning to host — the Mountie Invitational, but the pandemic and the school district put a stop to that.
Montclair is hoping it can get an opportunity to host the Super Essex County Championship, something it had done annually until the track at Woodman was being replaced and therefore not accessible.
Head coach Daryl Washington said hosting that meet — which would allow Montclair to keep a portion of the gate as well as all of concession proceeds — would help counter the loss of fundraising opportunities for the team.
“Oh yeah, we lost fundraising opportunities. We’re taking a hit on that,” he said. “We’re fighting to get the county [meet] here. We’ll see what happens with that because, again, it’s [dealing with] the district, plus the county. We’re trying to make it work, obviously with the COVID regulations and all that.”
Ultimately, the decision is out of Washington’s hands, so he is approaching it the same way he has had the team approach this whole unusual season: Focus on what you can control, don’t stress about the rest.
That served the team well when it was working during the indoor season this past winter. There were no field events the Mounties participated in, and in fact no events at all until the Spring Thaw event in Metuchen, which was the only winter event the indoor track team took part in.
Washington used that as a time to emphasize staying focused and taking advantage of whatever opportunities came the team’s way.
Control what you can, Washington told the team, like making sure to stay safe and healthy off the track as well as on it.
“I talked to the boosters and parents. I talked to the kids about it,” he said. “As a coach, I’m being very selfish because my thing is, let’s finish the season. Let’s not lose a season because of something we did. Last year we were locked down, nobody could help that, but now we can do things. We can personally do things that prevent us from making it to the postseason.”
Washington said that if someone on the team ends up with a positive COVID-19 test, the whole squad could end up shut down and quarantined for 10 days. Given that a team needs to participate in each previous round of the state meets in the postseason to advance to the next, the timing of a positive test could be disastrous.
“If that happens, what, just before sectionals?” he said. “You’re basically [done], realistically, right? Because if you don’t [appear in] sectionals, you can’t compete in groups, if you can’t compete in groups, you can’t do Meet of Champions. So your postseason is over, you know?”
Washington really doesn’t want that to happen, and not just because he wants kids to get a full spring of competition.
It’s also because he thinks this team has the talent to make some major waves this year.
That includes six seniors who will be running at the collegiate level.
Last week, seniors Oscar Counsell, Stephanie Webb, Krisantha Spencer, Violet Ross, Truman Williams and Jessie Legister declared their intent to run at the collegiate level. Counsell will be at American University, Webb at Lehigh University, Spencer at Rider University, Legister at Northeastern University, Williams at Bates College and Ross at Middlebury College.
There are also some athletes still in the recruiting process.
As for those who already committed, not only are those good schools to run at, but each one is a high-level academic institution.
“They really sat down, they did their work on the schools that they wanted to go to,” Washington said about the process his seniors went through to make their decisions. “It wasn’t based off of just athletics, it was based off of academics. If you look at these kids, their GPA, I think the lowest GPA out of the four is a 4.1.
“As a program we teach them how to run, jump and throw, but we also try to help in developing them to be controlled, self-aware, critical thinkers, because performance is more than just physical.”
Recruiting this winter was a bit more challenging than usual, as nobody had times or distances from last season, since there was no season. Then winter season was limited. So recruiters had to extrapolate what speed runners would achieve or what distance throwers would reach based on their progress in previous seasons.
Luckily, the seniors who will compete at the next level were already fast, something that should help their chances to get wins this spring.
That showed in the first meet of the season, when the team traveled to the Comet Relays on Saturday, May 1.
During the meet, the girls 4x100 meter relay team took first, with Webb, Ella McAdams, Anna Glorie and Kia Lawson finishing with a time of 50.9 seconds.
The boys also won the 4x100, as Legister, Williams, Rueven Frye and Michael Williams finished in 44.2.
The foursome also took first in the 4x200, while Counsell, Charles Ehlis, Charles Hymowitz and Lucas Dia won the 4x1600.
In the mixed medley relay, which is made up of distances of 400, 200, 200 and 80 meters, Frye, Williams, Legister and Counsell took first with a time of 3:42.6.
A very young group of throwers also got their feet wet last weekend, and while they didn’t take home any medals, they got a feel for what competition is like.
“We’ve got new freshmen ladies that are stepping up, and on the guy side, they’re sophomores,” Washington said. “It’s a young group. We have one senior, and she was a softball player the past couple of years. But she did indoor with us last year for the first time. So she liked it.”
Now the Mounties look to continue forward and finish the season at a high level.
Washington emphasized that winning, while a goal, is not the be-all, end-all for the team.
“With everything going on it’s easy to lose sight of the main goal, but regardless of what we’re going through, we have to find the small wins every day and not just at practice,” he said. “Because they are what keep us moving towards the big wins at the end of the season. Last year an entire season was taken from us, but now it’s time to make up for that and then some. Our goal is to work hard, have fun and enjoy the journey.”