Winter track athletes break records

Joe Gray '15 starts out on his 400 meter leg of the Distance Medley Relay after taking the baton from Jacob Rist '15. photo courtesy: Joe Gray

Joe Gray ’15 starts out on his 400 meter leg of the Distance Medley Relay after taking the baton from Jacob Rist ’15.
photo courtesy: Joe Gray

The winter track team has made history this season by breaking school records in multiple events. With national meets and the spring season quickly approaching, the team has been working to continue its success.

In terms of a season goal for the program, sprinter and jumper Jeremy Cohen ’16 said, “The team as a whole [tries] to make sure that we don’t gain any time or lose any distance since the last spring season.” Athletes and coaches view the winter season as a preparation for spring sports, which are the main focus.

“Winter is really the beginning for us. [It is mainly a] training season [to] get ready for spring track or whatever spring sport we will be doing,” said Michelle Bazile ’14. “The goal here is to get stronger and back into good shape.”

Some of the boys have improved drastically enough to break existing records within the school and threaten more as their season continues into the spring. “Teams [such as] our four by [800 meters] and [distance medley relay] distance teams were targeting big school records which were broken [this season], so across the board we have had a lot of success in terms of meeting our goals,” said Cohen.

“Going into this season, our relay team had goals of breaking several records like the DMR and 4 by 800 [record],” said mid-distance runner Joe Gray ’15. “Personally I aimed for the indoor 400 record, which I was able to beat.” Gray’s relay team, which consisted of Anders Berg ’14, Conor Donahue ’14, and Jacob Rist ’15, was also successful in breaking the DMR record.

Cohen and teammate Shihan Yu ’15 met their own personal goals of breaking a long jump relay record during the Lavino Relay meet. “We are a young squad,” said Cohen, “so being able to break records at the younger age that we are [encourages] us to look forward to the future and the possibilities [it holds for us].”

These records are indicative of improvement for the jumping program at PHS. This improvement can be partially attributed to boys team head coach and jumping coach Ben Samara. Samara began working with the team three years ago after leaving his position as the jumping coach for Hopewell Valley High School. “He is experienced in the area, so we know we can trust the advice he gives us,” said Cohen. “He has been a really positive influence on my performance, [and] I feel like I have grown a lot as a long jumper due to his assistance.”

“We’ve had great jumpers over the past decade at Princeton High School, but the big thing that I’m seeing now is a lot of consistency across the board,” said Samara. “We still have great jumpers, but now we have four guys [who can long jump] over 19 feet [and] two girls over 17 feet.” During outdoor meets, this kind of consistency means that Princeton, as a team, may be able to sweep all of the points in the long jump event by placing first, second, and third.

On the other hand, school records and team wins aren’t the only source of motivation within the team. “I personally don’t go into the season thinking about [breaking] a new school record,” said Bazile, a thrower. “I think the goal is just to perform the best that we can [to] qualify for bigger meets.” These bigger meets include Eastern State Championships and New Balance Indoor Nationals.

“Last year I went to Easterns,” said Bazile. “I didn’t qualify for [Indoor] Nationals. [But this year], I qualified for Nationals in spring. Throwing that qualifying [distance] at counties was great because now I don’t have to worry about getting another mark in before that meet [because] I know that it’s there to fall back on it if I need to.”

However, Bazile has also broken PHS records this season. “Last year I actually broke the school record for indoor shot-put, so every time I [achieve a new personal record,] it’s [also] a new record [for the school].”

With performances such as Bazile’s setting the standard, Cohen is optimistic about the upcoming spring track season and what it will bring for current winter track members.

“We will definitely be looking to break some of the records that we have already set,” said Cohen. “Winter is a slow[er] season [because] you are … working on your conditioning for spring. [If we] were able to break these records [during the winter season, then] we should be able to do even better to shatter them again in spring.”

Records in the spring will be harder to break, as times outdoors are generally faster and athletes’ abilities are generally better since they have had more time to train. Despite this, the team hopes to be prepared to take them on after the work they have put in this winter season.

Even so, Bazile’s new shot-put record beat the one that she had set last spring. “Now that I know [how far I can throw], going into the spring I will set the bar a little higher.”

By having all the track team members “set the bar a little higher” going into the spring season, athletes will shoot for more records, more qualifications, and more wins.