WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - Building a high school sports program in the best of times is hard. To be a second-year coach, in year two of building a brand-new program for school, requires a lot of public relations, trying to get players interested in joining your sport.
“Especially when the joke is ‘Your sport is our sports punishment,’” said Quinn Geraghty, the head coach of Wood-Ridge Cross Country program. “But it is a great sport, a lifelong sport, which is not something all sports can say."
Now add that Geraghty just took a teaching job in Leonia, which hinders his recruiting efforts in school, since he is not around to try to convince kids to give the sport a shot. Which leads to his last issue, the one every sport has been impacted by, COVID-19.
Now, Geraghty needs some success, and students to hear about in school, to get them interested in cross-country.
“We try to make this fun,” Geraghty said. “The way we grew our program last year was during the year kids coming out because their classmates were talking to them about it the halls, convincing their friends to join them.”
In 2020, with remote learning and hybrid schedules, that is a bit of a problem.
So, he heads into the season with seven runners, five boys, two girls, numbers that don’t even fill out a full entry at meets. (Technically the boys could enter a team competition filling five of the seven spots.)
The runners he has returning accomplished a lot in year one of the program
The girls team consists of seniors Callie Negro and Annie Brown. Negro had an outstanding year in 2019, finishing seventh in the NJIC League meet, and was a first team All-Patriot selection after being the third highest finisher in the division.
“I am expecting big things from her,” said Geraghty, “She is an outstanding runner."
She is joined by Brown, who draws praise from Geraghty for being a hard worker and “one of the nicest kids you will ever want to meet.”
Second Team All Patriot runner Simon Santamaria leads the boys team. He is joined by fellow seniors Nigel Baltodano and Marc Altamura. Junior Thomas Perez and first year cross-country runner Hans Vadillo round out the squad. Vadillo competed in track a season ago before being convinced to give cross-country a try.
The team improved steadily throughout the season in 2019, and is something that Geraghty is counting on once again in 2020. He states that the team is training well, although noted that the Covid-19 protocols limited some of the development over the summer.
“Normally, I would have them run five days a week,’ Geraghty said. “But with the protocols, we limited it to three days per week in the summer. We have amped it up, and the kids are responding.”
Even the schedule will be different, as races will only be on Saturday’s this season, and all will take place at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park.
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