SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ – TAPintoSPF is honoring the Class of 2020 with a series of senior profiles honoring the athletes who did not get to play their spring sports seasons due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Today, we will highlight the seniors on the Boys Track & Field team.
Riding momentum from the team’s 2019 indoor state championship, the boys were ready to run laps around the competition in their final season. PR’s galore and Penn Relays approaching, the training had just started to up before it all came crashing down.
“Some of these kids had been doing some great workouts on their own, just hoping they had a chance to get back out there again and finish their high school careers with some PR's. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end,” said SPFHS Track & Field Coach Jeff Koegel.
“This isn't how we wanted the story of our spring season to end. Sports are a large part of the identity of many of these students and has a great deal of meaning for them,” he added. “I miss seeing them and working with them.”
Coach Koegel noted Max as being a key part of the cross-country team in 2018, the strongest he says he’s ever coached. Max helped the team win Union County Conference championship for the Watchung Division, second at the county championship, and third in sectionals.
“Max was one of four boys on the team who ran sub-17:00 that season, reaching a PR of 16:53 for 5K,” Coach Koegel said. “He had struggled with injuries. We were looking forward to having him back this season.”
Max Cardarelli will compete at DeSales University in cross-country and track. He will major in biology.
Event: Pole Vault
Ian was a great vaulter for the boys and helped contribute to their success on the track for the past 2 years through their various state and sectional titles. Coach Kane remembers recruiting Ian for pole vault in his sophomore year.
"He is exactly what a coach is looking for in his dedication, determination and love for the sport. What a privilege to work with him for 3 years.”
Ian fondly remembers his first meet.
“My favorite memory was from my very first track meet when I didn’t expect to clear opening height. But, I PRed about 5 times that day.”
Ian will attend Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the fall and will continue with pole vault.
Event: Cross-Country, 1600m & 3200m
Chris attributes his love for distance running to the improvements he saw in each race he completed at the start of his XC career. He fondly recalls the final race of his senior year in the fall, where he broke 18 minutes for his 5k run, saying “this was such a monumental moment for me because I felt as though the 4 years of training and racing was all leading up to this moment.”
“When I was finally able to reach my goal of breaking 18 minutes, I realized that every footstep along with the way, no matter good or bad, was worth it,” he said.
When asked about losing his senior year and final season due to COVID-19, he noted that he realized he should not take for granted the time he spent with his team and was happy to have given a full effort every time -- especially given the way it all ended.
“Obviously, I am saddened by the sudden end to my senior year, but instead of focusing on the negatives, I tried to look at the positives,” Chris said. “Quickly, I realized that I should treat every moment with my teammates with respect prior to this event. I was happy that I gave the team 110% of myself each and every day. I realized that I should cherish every moment with my teammates, because you never know when it’s all going to come to a sudden halt.”
Chris Downey will study Engineering at Virginia Tech.
Events: 800m & 1600m
A soccer player in the fall and track runner in the winter and spring, Iron Raider Colin did not come out to run with Raiders XCTF until the winter season of his junior year.
“From the beginning, I could tell Colin could run well. Unfortunately, we never got to see how well. I think Colin could have gone sub-2:00 in the 800 and under 4:30 in the 1600 this spring. We just needed more time to work together and a complete season to do it in,” Koegel said.
Colin was a member of the 2019 indoor state championship team and was described as “a very coachable kid.”
Colin Dwyer will attend North Carolina State University and pursue a degree in computer science.
Event: 5K & 1600m
Starting his XC career during his sophomore year he immediately hit a milestone time of 22:06. Moving ahead to his junior season, Nick was working diligently with Coach Koegel to try to get his time under 20:00. However, a stress fracture in his foot sidelined him for some time.
Coming off this injury he had the sole intention of breaking 19:00 and ended up finishing that fall season with a new PR of 18:43. Entering this spring, he and Coach Koegel had plans for him to run the 1600m in 5:00 or less.
“Nick was someone who always stepped up with his best performances at the end of the season. He knew how to finish with a bang,” Coach Koegel said. “Nick never missed practice, always did what I asked of him, and I don't think he knows how to complain. If he does, he doesn't do it at practice. He was also a positive influence on a number of the younger boys on the team, leading their training group.”
Nick LaFerrera will attend Drexel University and major in Game Design.
Events: 800m, 1600m, 5k
"My teammates were the essence of XC/T&F. Running by itself is just mindless exercise, but teammates make it a sport," Harrison said. "Running everyday road loops with people whose company I enjoy, pushing through long runs with someone to guide me every step of the way, even getting dusted by a friend in a workout. All of these things added humanity and life into what could have been a grueling routine."
His advice to younger teammates is to remain diligent and focused, as well as pushing through the hard times because they will not last forever. “Even if you're struggling early on in the season or find trouble in your first few weeks, the payoff of commitment is huge. Just listening to what Mr. Koegel tells you to do, trying your hardest every day will lead you to great times, strong races, and lasting friendships.”
Harrison Mills will attend Cornell in the fall.
Events: 400m, 800m, Cross-Country
Myles, who ran a handful of different events for the Raiders, was a pivotal piece in their Indoor Winter State Championship win, which he recalls as his most memorable moment from his years on the team. He added that he will miss the comradery of the team when he leaves.
“I’m going to miss my teammates and making new memories with them," Myles said. "The team is a second family to me, and I hope they will always have each other’s back.”
Myles plans to spend the next 2 years at Union County College to run track and prepare for where he will finish his pursuit of an undergraduate degree.
Events: 400m Intermediate Hurdles, 110m High Hurdles, 55m High Hurdles, 200m, 400m,and 4 x 400m
Justin wants his teammates to continue running hard and giving each race everything they’ve got. H
“For my younger teammates. I’m telling you not to skip practice and not to joke around when you have to race. In relays you have the benefit of running with your teammates, but that doesn't mean you slack or run half fast. When you have a race your mindset should be how it's going to hurt, or the distance, or how fast your competitors are, your only thought should be how you will win.”
Justin says he will miss his coaches the most.
“I'm going to miss my coaches. Rich, Mr Koegel, Coach Neidig, and Coach Doherty. I wouldn't have the opportunities I have today if I didn't have them guiding me," he said. "Out of all four years of high school, they are the best thing that could have happened to me. I can't imagine not seeing them every day after school for practice. My coaches and friends made this team a family. That's what I'm going to miss the most.”
Justin will major in political science with a minor in legal studies at Rider University, where he will run track.
Reflecting upon the missed season, Coach Koegel said: “I wish there were something I could have done for them. I figured we would be out a few weeks and be back.”
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