SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Spotswood High School winter track team has been hard at work since Thanksgiving break with the 80-member team practicing six days a week. For many participants, it is their first time running a 55-meter race or throwing a shot put. Early on in the season, longtime track coach, Roland D'Orvilliers and fellow coaches Kyle Price and Nicole Salge, conduct ability testing to see where new members best fit. The events for both male and female participants include the 55-meter high hurdles, 55-meter dash, 400-meter dash, 800-meter run, 1600-meter run, 3200-meter run, high jump, shot put and pole vault.

Thus far, the team has competed in the Track Universe Invitational at the New Balance Armory in New York City over the winter break on December 30 and at the Colts Neck and Friends Invitational at the Bennett Center in Toms River on January 4. Those events as well as upcoming ones aim to get the track and field athletes ready for the Greater Middlesex Conference Championship on Saturday, January 14 and the NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association Group 2 Sectional Championships, which takes place on February 12 and February 18.

"Our first two outings were designed for the athletes to learn the operation of a meet and to acquire seeding times and distances for use at competitive and scored events as are our upcoming GMC Championship and NJSIAA Sectional Championship," D'Orvilliers explained via email.

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Both the GMC and the State Sectional championships will take place at the Bennett Center in Toms River.

At the Colts Neck Invitational, distance runner Cassandra Raia was the top finisher for the Chargers, placing first in both the 1600 and 3200-meter races. Raia crossed the finish line in the 1600-meter race with a winning time of 5:32.84. She placed first in the 3200-meter race with a time of 12:10.47. The senior also runs cross country for Spotswood and is a member of the spring track time as well. Raia is a pivitoal runner on the 4 x 400-meter, 4 x 800-meter, 4 x 16000-meter and distance medley relay teams that have left their mark in the Charger track and field record books.

Last spring Raia along with teammates Kate Wasserman, Allie Coghlan and Michaela Robinson broke the Distance Medley Relay record at the GMC Championships with a time of 12:34.57. The record breaking time also shattered the Spotswood High School record, which was 13:01. South Brunswick High School previously set the DRM record at the GMC Championship in 2012 with a time of 12:45.04. Wasserman and Coghlan both graduated in June of 2016, moving on to compete at the collegiate track and field level.

Fellow cross country runner Katherine Parlitsis finished eighth at the Colts Neck Invitational in the 1600-meter race with a time of 5:54.95 and came in third in the 3200-meter race with a time of 12:54.71. Nick Toth was the highest finisher for the men's side. Toth placed fifth in the 3200-meter race with a time of 10:39.19. Teammate Anthony Bonacci came in seventh in the 3200-meter race with a time of 10:46.64 while John Fiffick placed eighth with a time of 10:56.14.

Only athletes that meet the qualification standards for the GMC and State Sectional championships will participate in those events. However, the other members of the squad will have a chance to compete in the Toms River Frosh-Novice Championships as well as the Monmouth Showcase Meet. There will also be a scrimmage at Spotswood High School on February 20 at 10 a.m. where athletes get to run on the newly refurbished track.

In the meantime, the 80-member team runs on every day after school and Saturday mornings, honing skills and getting in shape from seasoned competitors to beginners.