by Andrew Garda
Montclair High School has a very well known and successful athletic program but this spring the biggest stories were from some of what might be considered the smallest sports.
Yes, the Mounties baseball team did well, and the girls lacrosse team ended up in the Essex County finals, but the spring really did belong to sports you might not normally be following.
Take girls track and field, for example. The girls won the SEC Conference Championships and Essex County Championships, took third in the NJSIAA Group 4 Sectionals, and sent shot putter Shelby Bigsby, sprinter Nyjah Young-Bey and the 4×800-meter relay team of Elizabeth Cummings, Meghan Hessler, Matilda Ferguson, and Amelia Lufrano to the Meet of Champions.
Bigsby took third in her event at the Meet of Champions, and Young-Bey and the relay team also performed well, adding to the many successes the team had in 2017.
Both girls and boys track performed well throughout the season, and have a ton of returning talent for next year, so it’s likely they will be the source of a lot of news then as well.
The Mounties boys tennis team had its best season ever. After an opening day loss to Millburn, the Mounties won four of their next five matches. That included an upset of powerhouse Newark Academy, a team that has been a thorn in Montclair’s side for some time on the tennis courts.
MHS is in a tough division beyond Newark Academy. Millburn and Livingston are also good year in and year out, so for Montclair to gain traction is very difficult. This year was different as the Mounties found a way to beat all three teams at least once, something that rarely happens.
Speaking of things that never happen, this was also the first time the Mounties made the finals of the Essex County Tournament. While they dropped a tough match to Millburn, they played very well in the opening round and overcame some tough play by Livingston. They weren’t able to overcome Millburn, but they were in it for the whole match and the Millers had their hands full.
The squad finished the season by sending Leo Kupferman and Peter Messenger, plus doubles pair Calvin Alexander and Garrett Pahl, to the singles and doubles tournaments. Kupferman and the pair of Alexander and Pahl did very well, making the round of 16 before getting knocked out.
The Mounties golf team compiled a 15-1 record this spring. All season long, the team constantly adjusted its form and technique as it dropped just one match the entire season. The Mounties won their division title over Seton Hall Prep with a 169-180 score in the final match of the year.
Finally, if we’re talking generally overlooked sports, there’s no way to forget the MHS crew team.
The Mounties will cap off an undefeated season by traveling to England to take part in the Henley Royal Regatta, which runs from June 28 to July 2 — as of press time, results from their first race had not yet been posted. Montclair also became the first public school ever to win the Garden State Scholastic Championships, and did it with both the boys and girls.
The boys starting varsity eight then won their first-ever Stotesbury Championship, took home the title at the SRAA Nationals Regatta and won the National Schools’ Championship Regatta as well.
The dedication of the coaches, athletes and parents are huge reasons for MHS’ success in these sports. Without their time and effort, it would be hard for many of these sports to exist, much less flourish. The same goes for the Montclair High School Athletic Department, particularly outgoing director Jeff Gannon.
Throughout the season, every single coach for these “minor” sports mentioned how much Gannon and the school helped them, whether by fundraising, organizing events or just showing up to cheer the kids on. For an athletic director to come by the smaller sports, especially regularly, is unusual as they often focus on the marquee sports. Each coach stressed how important a supportive administration and director had been to their success.
All of them also expressed concern over losing Gannon and uncertainty about who will fill the former AD’s shoes. Will that person take the time to go the extra mile that is needed to keep the crew or golf programs afloat?
Everyone involved in these very successful programs hopes they do.