by Andrew Garda
The snow has finally melted at Woodman — permanently it seems this time — and the Montclair High School track and field squad took to the outdoors. While they had been able to do some work indoors, with distance runners jogging through the hallways and throwers practicing technique in gyms when there was room and other hallways when there wasn’t, there is a limitation to what can be done.
So now that the team can practice outside, they are redoubling their efforts to get up to speed.
It’s a lot of work, according to coach Sophia Kenny, as they have a large number of students out for the track and field team this year.
However, as she put her long jumpers through their practice paces, Kenny was pleased.
“This is only our second day of doing jumps this season,” she said. “And they’re all catching on,”
There’s a lot of catching on with all the new faces. Kenny said they have a very strong mix of veterans along with new faces who are giving the track and field team a try this Spring.
“We have a lot of freshmen, a lot of sophomores and even some upper classmen that said ‘I want to try something new, I don’t want to go to waste by not doing anything at all and I want to do something.’ It’s good to see,” Kenny said.
Aside from new faces, the Mounties also have a new event they will be competing in — the pole vault.
For years now, MHS has lacked instructors in pole vault, and without those there are no athletes to compete, which means the team leaves points on the field, making it that much harder to win meets.
This year, the boys have an instructor and while Kenny was not sure if they would be ready for Saturday, when MHS hosts the 2018 Mountie Relays at Woodman Field, they will be competing very soon.
“They are working at another facility, which is great,” Kenny said. “They’ve been asking about pole vault for a long time and they actually started training in the winter. The next goal is having some female pole vaulters.”
The boys side will now have athletes competing in every event.
While the girls have dominated for the last few seasons — names like Shelby Bigsby, Nyjah Young-Bey, Matilda Ferguson and Meghan Hessler will be familiar to anyone who followed the team last season — Kenny feels this is the boy’s year to shine.
“I said this in one of our first meetings, but this outdoor season there is going to be a lot seen from the boys squad,” Kenny said. “With the talent on the boys side this year, we’re going to make some noise with both boys and girls.”
Kenny expects athletes like seniors Dale Ross, Miles Wright and Oliver Stordahl to lead the way, with twin juniors Stefan and Sebastian Urquidi — who Kenny refers to as “Double Trouble“ — combining to form a potent group of runners from which to build momentum on the boys side. There are numerous field athletes she is watching as well, waiting to see who will emerge as foundational athletes in events like the long jump, shot put and javelin.
Joining the leaders on the girls side will be seniors Trinity Fowlin, and Victoria Liverpool as well as freshman Stephanie Webb, who Kenny said was a big contributor during winter track.
Kenny and the other coaches were still trying to finalize who would be competing on Saturday, and had intended to have an internal competition last Saturday, March 24, but canceled the meet because too many athletes were participating in the March for our Lives events across New York and New Jersey.
“It was an amazing thing which our athletes took part in and were very vocal about,” Kenny said. “We didn’t want to say they had to choose between the two. You’re doing something and standing up for what you believe in and making a voice for yourself. You’re stepping up and there’s no need for me to stand here and put pressure on you about that.”
Kenny said that every day is a competition to some extent anyway and no spot is set until the day of the meet. The coaches want their athletes hungry and no spot is truly safe. If you’re a freshman, you can end up competing if you do well enough, and if you’re an upperclassmen, you can lose your slot if you slack off.
After the Mountie Relays, the team will have several meets during spring break, and Kenny said that while their numbers will go down with kids on vacation, it allows the coaches to take a hard look at the athletes who remain over the break.
“It’s almost like playing chess. We’re moving pieces around and figuring out the best combination,” Kenny said. “I pride myself in not putting out my best relays until it’s time for championship season.”