What did 2021 mean to me as a coach...
With 2021 coming to an end and 2022 picking right up, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what the last year has meant to me as a coach. Just as I remind my athletes to stop and smell the roses along the way, I needed to remind myself to do the same thing. I can too quickly move on to the next season and forget to reflect on where we were, where we are, and where we are going. 2021 Winter season, if you can call it that, had a late start. This was going to be unlike any indoor track season I had ever coached. No state meets whatsoever. Some outdoor polar bear meets. Some indoor dual meets at the bubble and a distance meet hosted by us at the end which seemed somewhat normal.
So let's recap the indoor season.
We had just come off a very successful cross country season where the girls won S.J. Group 4 Sectionals. Although not every team was at the sectional championship meet, there were no states or MOC's to look forward to. So, as the indoor season got under way, I knew that the distance program was about to go to a new level. Mix that in with a very solid core of returning sprinters and jumpers, we knew we had the pieces to start to put together some really fun relays. With the abbreviated schedule, we really got to focus on training. I know for myself and for coach Misuraco one of the highlights for us was all of those competitive 4x4's we put together for the bubble meets. It did feel funny running an outdoor meet on March 20th and putting it down for the indoor season, but it is what it is. Those bubble meets told me that these girls were fit and ready to make some noise.
The spring season looked to be our first steps back to normalcy. The spring season was not as big as it normally is, but we had girls out that wanted to train, wanted to compete, and wanted to get better. That combination is all that a coach can ask for. Now at the start of the season, a lot of schools did not want to host big invitationals. Our school stepped up to the plat and hosted our two traditional distance meets along with 3 track meets(1 relay and two individual). Dual meet wise, they were just shy of winning the conference. A close loss to Washington Township was the only loss for the year and as we approached the championship part of the season we saw many individuals continue to make a name for themselves. We had 3 individuals and 2 relays qualify for the Meet of Champions and saw our 4x800 meter relay team of Kelsey Niglio, Nikki Clifford, Meghan Carroll and Erin Jackson place 3rd. Breaking the school record running 9:20.44 at the Cherokee relays, they went on a run to take first place at the South Jersey Group 4 Sectional meet(9:29.05), second place at the State Group 4 meet(9:34.21), third place at the Meet of Champions(9:22.73) and capped it off with an eight place showing at the Nike Outdoor Nationals running 9:21.99.
The trip out to Hayward Field, made up for all of the challenges the past year gave us. It also saw the birth of Tub Gator Track Club.
Once we got back from Oregon, cross country training was just starting up again. Knowing who we had back from last year, we knew that this year had the potential to be very special. Just as the summer training was getting underway, I had a freak accident while working on my suburban. It had rolled off the ramps and onto me, crushing me under the car and leaving me pinned there. God was certainly looking out for me that day as my second oldest daughter Marissa, who was helping me, got my wife and I was able to tell her what to do to get the car off of me. After a trip to the trauma ER, I walked away the next day with just a fractured scapula. Not exactly how I wanted to start the summer. Running let alone moving around was out of the question for awhile. The distance girls held everything together and coach Petruzzi stepped up and filled the void. The fall cross country season was one that I will look back on for years to come. I kept challenging the girls to make a statement and they did just that every meet we went to. It is unheard of to finish an XC season and say that we went undefeated, but they did. They won everything that we ran in.
Cherokee Challenge, Shore Coaches Varsity A race, Burlington County Open, Olympic Conference Championship, South Jersey Group 4 Sectionals, State Group 4, Meet of Champions and the Nike Northeast Regional Championships.
The top seven remained constant the entire season as did the top 5. Nikki Clifford, Olivia Parkinson, Kelsey Niglio, Kerry O'Day, Megan Niglio, Lainy Bromley, and Noelle Falzone. I feel like I could write a book on this past fall season, but what the girls accomplished will be remembered for years to come. The first State title in our programs history. The first MOC title in school history by any program, and the only team from South Jersey to win the NXN Regional meet(only the 3rd from the state).
Then next up on the plate was the indoor season. The distance girls didn't miss a beat. When ever they stepped on the track, it seemed like something magical was going to happen. The 2021 competitive season ended with our meet on December 29th, where the distance girls ran in their first meet of the season posting a 12:30.94 to win the SJTCA meet and post a US#1 time. So what does 2022 have in store for us? I can only dream, which is what the girls running in 2021 did. Aim high ladies. To quote coach Fred Rucker "Shoot for the moon, if you miss you will still hit the stars."