Boys track and field emphasizes individual responsibility and team leadership

With much of its season behind it, the boys track and field team is gearing up for some bigger meets to come. The team competed in the NJSIAA Sectionals-Central Group III tournament on May 22 and 23 with several runners advancing to the NJSIAA Group III Championships on May 29 and 30. Many of the athletes looked forward to the sectional and group meets, as doing well there would allow them to qualify for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions and New Balance National Scholastic Competition.

The runners’ approach in practice toward the end of the season was different than it was earlier in the season in that instead of focusing on quantity—whether that be in the number of miles run per week or the number of reps practicing the long jump—the boys focused on quality. They paid close attention to technique in order to ensure consistent performances in meets.

“[We started] our tapering period where we do less miles and our performance gradually improves,” said Patrick O’Connell ’17, who runs the 800 and 1600-meter distances.

The less intense practices also served as a safety mechanism, to ensure that runners did not overstress themselves and become injured.

“We … [took] it really easy, making sure we [didn’t] risk anything and making sure we [stayed] relaxed and focused for sectionals,” said Theo Tel ’16, who does both the long jump and high jump.

At sectionals and the state championship there were several notable performances. The four by 800-meter team of O’Connell, Noah Chen ‘16, Alex Roth ’17, and Cy Watsky ’17 finished first in the section and fourth in Group 3, qualifying for the MOC. Roth went on to finish eighth in Group 3 in the 3200 meter at the State championships. This achievement earned him a wildcard entry to the MOC where he finished 15th in the 3200 meter with a personal record of 9:20:32. Additionally, earlier in the year the 800-meter Sprint Medley Relay team of Shihan Yu ’15, Jeremy Cohen ’16, Alex Solopenkov ’17, and Joe Gray ’15 qualified for New Balance Outdoor Nationals.

These performances are a result of individual work and personal dedication as, unlike previous years, there is no official captain this season. Since many of the varsity runners are underclassmen, the team has been putting more emphasis on individual responsibility and work ethic as opposed to relying on one or two specific leadership figures.

“Everybody had leadership roles and I was trying to see through the course of the season who exactly was going to step up,” said Head Coach Rashone Johnson. “What happened was different individuals in their training groups stepped up to be leaders.”

“Everyone on the team is taking care of what they need to take care of,” Roth said. “If everybody leads by example, there’s no real need for [a captain], and it’s been working out.”

Increased unity has also been a focus of the team this season. After losing several seniors after last year’s season, the boys did not want to lose the bond that had helped carry them forward to the end of the season in previous years.

“I feel the team has really come together a lot. This year with seniors leaving, our team was not as together as it has been. We have worked very hard on that … and our team has come together and is one strong unit now,” Chen said.

This idea of team unity is not just limited to the distance runners; it is something that athletes of many different events find important.

“There’s sprints and there’s distance and then there’s jumps and throws. But definitely over all … it’s … all for a team goal and helping the team,” Tel said. “All the points go towards the same thing. So really although there are different groups, it’s all for one goal.”

Distance runners Noah Chen ’16 and Nick Delaney ’18 lead practice on May 19 at the Princeton High School track.  Photo: Amy Wang

Distance runners Noah Chen ’16 and Nick Delaney ’18 lead practice on May 19 at the Princeton High School track.
Photo: Amy Wang

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