by Andrew Garda
How do you have a track and field team when there’s no track or field?
That’s been the challenge Montclair High School’s track and field has been facing all spring as work continues on Woodman track.
“For now, we just make the best of it,” MHS head coach Daryl Washington said. “I know the distance [runners] go to Brookdale Park some days and they can get track workouts in there. With sprinters, we just keep them here, on the turf, because I know if I have them jog to Brookdale, it’s going to take so much out of them they won’t even have a chance to do the workout. So it just becomes a waste.”
It’s a problem with one solution — wait. The area along and around the track is dug up, and new drainage has been put together, but the asphalt cannot be laid until there is a 10-day stretch of 50-degree or warmer weather. After the asphalt is laid down, it must sit for 28 days before the track material can be installed on top of it. After that, there is a five-day period where the track surface settles, and then the lanes and other markings can be painted.
Unfortunately, that means the school will not be able to host the Mountie Relays this season, as they take place on April 6. Instead, the event will be held at West Orange High School.
On the one hand, a field is a field and a track is a track. The Mounties will perform no matter where they run, jump or throw.
On the other hand, the school will lose out on some significant money. Teams of only boys or girls pay $375 per entry, while combined gender teams pay $750 per school entry.
There were 11 combined teams which took part in 2018, with four more girls only teams as well.
That’s $9,750 which will not be coming to the MHS athletic department. Not to mention the concession stands, which go right to the Track & Field Booster Club.
For practice purposes, the team tried to find a replacement home so they could do more specific training, but have been unable to.
Washington does what he can to enable his team to sharpen their skills. For relay teams, he marks out distance with cones on the football field, so they can at least practice the correct distance for each leg. However, you can’t practice heading into the turns when you can only run in a straight line, and that leaves some very specific skills relatively unpracticed.
Despite this, Washington has high hopes for his team this year.
“I know the girls will step up, and hopefully bring back the County Title. It’ll be a good thing if we have this [track] ready by then,” he said. “That would be a good way to set the tone having a new track and bringing home a county title. I think the guys can too. It’s a strong guys team, with the sprinter core we have, plus obviously the distance guys—we could step up and shock the county. Take [the title] from the East Orange and Saint Benedicts. It’s all a matter of stealing those points.”
Among the athletes Washington is hoping will steal those points and win some meets are a crop of seniors who have already been very successful.
Nyjah Young-Bey, Stefan and Sebastian Urquidi, Tilly Ferguson, Eleanor Keating and Charles Murphy Jr. lead a talented group of senior athletes who have already tasted success over the previous three years of their Mounties careers.
They won’t have to do it alone though, as there is a lot of talent behind them, according to Washington.
“The good thing is we have good junior, sophomores and even freshmen classes, behind them,” he said. “We had a lot of guys from basketball and football come out, too. Shawn Collins is out, and I’m trying to see where I can fit him in. But I know he’ll be an asset, because he’s so athletic. And the basketball guys who are out too, they can definitely help Charles in the high jump. I also think some can help with the field events like discus.”