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 four graduating seniors on the Girl’s Track & Field team.
After their best season ever in 2019, the girls on this squad were on a mission to silence critics and gain recognition as one of the top teams in Union County and the state.
“Our girls had their best season ever this winter. We had a lot of momentum,” said SPFHS Track & Field Coach Jeffery Koegel. “We always talk about taking care of the things that are under our control, like our attitude and our effort, and to hope for the best for the things that are outside our control.”
Missing an entire season this spring was something no one could have foretold. Losing Penn Relays to COVID-19 was when it really started to sink in for the team, according to Coach Koegel.
“I figured we would be out a few weeks and be back. Maybe cancel the dual meets and a few of the Saturday meets in April. Once the Penn Relays got canned, you knew it was something big,” he said.
Events: 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, triple jump, 55m hurdles, 4x400m relay, 4x200m relay
Nicole was a member of the foursome of girls that won the 4x400m relay at Penn Relays in 2019, and recalls this as one of her favorite memories as a member of this team.
“My favorite memories have to winning the mini-wheel at Penn Relays with the 4x4 and going down to North Carolina for Outdoor NB Nationals with the shuttle hurdle team.”
Nicole wants all her younger teammates to continue to work hard and carry the torch forward for Raiders XCTF.
"You have to work hard to get results," she told TAPintoSPF. "Always push yourself to do better than before. Never settle, always strive to be the best and realize that you are a lot more capable than you think.”
Nicole will attend Boston University next fall.
Event: Shot Put
Antoinette is a force to be reckoned with in the shot put circle, she has thrown in the ballpark of 85’ for throughout her career.
She said her fondest memories are from the time spent with her throwing coaches.
“I miss a lot about T&F, but above all I miss seeing my teammates, Coach Stack, and Coach Hernandez. Over the past few years they have become my closest friends and I miss them so much!”
Antoinette is set to major in mathematics at Gettysburg College in the fall.
Event: Pole Vault
Coming of an outstanding winter season, placing first at NJSIAA North II Group IV Championship with a PR and school record of 9’0”, this spring was due to be a huge step in Katherine’s career. Because SPFHS doesn’t have indoor capabilities for the students to pole vault throughout the winter, Kate and her pole vault coach (Coach Kane) put in hours at the pole vaulting club during the cold winter months, which led to her PR to finish that season.
“Kate really came a long way in the past year, and we were excited to see how high she would have gone this spring. Coach Kane firmly believed she would have gone well over 10',” Coach Koegel said, adding that “Kate was an integral part of our state sectional championship team this winter.”
Events: Triple Jump, Long Jump, High Jump, 100m Hurdles, 55m Hurdles
Anina has also been an invaluable member of the girls Track and Field team. She wants to remind her teammates to trust their ability as an athlete and to value the guidance of their coaches.
“Try a new event and stick with it. When I entered track freshman year, I never thought I would compete in the championship season that same year," Anina said. "I tried the events and worked hard to earn my spot. If you believe in yourself and listen to the coaches, you can succeed.”
“I will miss my track family the most," she said. "They have become my best friends and many of the coaches have taught me powerful life lessons.”
Anina departs for NYU's Stern School to study Finance and Global Business.
Events: High Jump, Hurdles, Triple Jump
Che's favorite memory was winning sectionals during the winter season.
"It was so exciting and everyone was having such an amazing day! So many of us placed and moved on to states," she said.
Her advice is to listen to the coaches.
"They have been doing this for a long time, and they know what's best for you. Make sure you enjoy what you are doing," she said. "Track can sometimes be frustrating, especially in the more technical events, so make sure you're having fun and don't get too down if you have a bad meet."
What Che will miss most: Competing in shuttle hurdles.
"There is just something about that race and my relay team that makes each race unforgettable," she said.
Che will attend LSU (Louisiana State University) Honors College to study Animal Science on a pre-veterinary track.
Coach Koegel described Isabelle as “a javelin specialist on our spring track & field team.” She placed in the conference championship last spring, throwing a distance of 104’6”, a PR, throwing an additional 15’ from her last PR. Coach Koegel commended her for having a friendly attitude, being an easy kid to work with, and even noted her extreme impact of the already strong javelin area of the team this season.
“One of the things I will remember most about Izzy is what a nice person she is, and always quick with a smile and to say hello,” Coach Koegel said “The javelin was an area where we really expected to be strong this spring and something that would help us build on all the success we had this winter.”
Event: Cross-Country, 1600m & 3200m
Olivia says her love for the events she ran came in middle school when she would run road 5k races and got her start in the 1600m race.
“I never enjoyed sprinting during soccer practice or the other sports I played, but when I got the chance to run longer distances, I was really in my element,” she said of her skills at distance running. When asked about losing her senior season, Olivia was quick to highlight the goals she had set for herself to qualify for state group meets in all three seasons of the school year, having already qualified in the fall and winter.
“I am really disappointed. I had high expectations and big goals for the season! I wanted to qualify for the state group meet all three seasons this year, I made groups both fall and winter and although I know spring would be the hardest of seasons,” she said. “I really thought I’d be able to accomplish it this season.”
Olivia plans to run track and cross-country for the University of Pittsburgh next year.
Event: Pole Vault
One of the leaders on the pole vault squad, Kelly helped contribute to the team's success leading into this spring season. Coach Koegel describes her as “a pole vault specialist for us.”
“When she first came out for the team, she had a lot of issues with her knees that made running a bit difficult for her. When I found out she was a gymnast, pole vaulting seemed like it would be a good fit for her,” said Coach Koegel, citing her strong winter season as a reason why they were expecting big things from her this spring.
Kelly also recalled her first day of practice for this canceled season as her best memory as she remembers her long built excitement for the upcoming season.
Coach Koegel said that while this missed season was out of all of their control, he really wishes the kids could have run for the season they prepared for.
“The situation this spring was far worse. I think as time went on, the inevitability of the season being canceled became more and more apparent. I am very appreciative for the kids who put in so much work in trying to keep themselves fit,” he explained.
“I miss working with them, and I miss being at school, at practice, and at meets. I will continue to support my student-athletes in every way I can,” the coach said.
TAPintoSPF.net is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily local news source. Sign up for our free daily eNewsletter and “Like” us on Facebook and Twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.
TAPinto.net's Grand Re-Opening Marketing specials provide local businesses with social media marketing, content marketing, and brand awareness as well as the flexibility to market in neighboring towns. To find out more, click here.