SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Union Catholic's Girls Track Coach Mike McCabe has been named USA Today's ALL-USA Girls Coach of the Year for helping to guide his team for an undefeated season for the fifth consecutive year. For his efforts and his team’s performance, received almost two-thirds (65%) of the votes.
"At UC, we build a culture to help everyone get better," McCabe said in an interview with TAPinto at the Union Catholic track. "They work with each other. They push each other. We won a national title in the 400 relay because of it."
This is just the latest achievement for McCabe, whose resume also includes coaching Olympic hurdler Sydney McLaughlin.
"When it was happening, I knew the magnitude but I really didn't feel it. A few years later, the enormity hits you," McCabe said. "I got to make connections that will help me forever. I did what I could to help Syd get better. She's such a great person: smart, kind, and talented."
"Having her here was almost like coaching a third team: the boys team, the girls team, and Syd. What I mean is that in addition to helping prepare her for future races, we would go over things like how to handle the media," the coach said. "It was a unique experience."
"When I started 16 years ago, the boys were better; they won three straight championships. When Sydney came, there were a couple of other girls who were very strong, and it took off," Coach McCabe said. "Kids who are interested in track now come here, and they love the school."
The coach is also quick to share the credit.
"I've been blessed to have such talented kids and a talented staff," said McCabe, who originally was a JV basketball coach under Coach Jim Reagan at UC. "The administration here is very supportive. When I stated, there was no track. It was just a grass field."
Union Catholic has been able to attract track talent. Leena Morant had an outstanding season. Over her career, she has captured four Non-Public A state titles in the 800 (two indoors and two outdoors), helped lead her schoool to numerous state team titles, and has been one of the catalysts for UC's surge to become one of the top high school programs in the nation.
Jerika Lufrano came to UC already talented athlete, and McCabe said that you never know what someone will become.
"Sometimes you can see it (talent) immediately. Here, we know how to train and help them get better," said McCabe. "So much of this sport is mental. It's you vs. your own times. There's nobody else to blame."
Coach McCabe and his wife, Mary, met and grew up in Westfield, where they still live, and were both collegiate athletes at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia. For several years before she had children, Mary also coached at UC. They now have a son, Brian, age 11, and a daughter, Kelly, age 7, who also likes to run.
McCabe has been educated at Catholic schools all his life, starting at Holy Trinity in Westfield and continuing at Saint Joseph High School (Metuchen), where he was part of state championship teams in the mid 2000s. In addition to coaching, he teaches math and digital film editing at Union Catholic.
Union Catholic (1600 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains) prepares a diverse student body to fulfill their college and career goals by cultivating the students' achievement of academic standards of excellence within a value-centered environment, strong in its commitment to our core values (respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, and community), and to the establishment of a community of faith and love in the Catholic tradition. For more information, call (908) 889-1600 or visit www.unioncatholic.org.