SPRINGFIELD, NJ – Just like last year, the Jonathan Dayton Bulldogs varsity winter indoor track team starts the season with a lot more participants. In fact, almost twice as many participants. There are two sources of increase and they are greater student interest and another large group of freshmen.
The most recent count is 80. The group includes ten seniors, 18 juniors, 26 sophomores and 26 freshmen. There are slightly more boys than girls, which is the same as last year’s team. Practice began Monday November 27 after a two-week break for those participating in a fall sport. Practice begins shortly after 3:00 p.m. with things wrapping up under the Dayton turf field lights or in the weight room. Either way, members of the winter track team have their evenings to study and for other activities.
Both teams are coached by Matt VanDeursen. This is his third year as head coach of winter track and sixth year as head coach of boys spring track. Coaching track is something that runs in the VanDeursen family. Family members coaching high school track include an aunt that coaches at Westfield High School, two uncles that coach at Piscataway High and Morristown High School and VanDeursen’s wife who is an assistant track coach at Montville High School.
Coach VanDeursen views winter indoor track is the bridge for many student athletes between cross country and outdoor track. For others it is a good compliment to another sport. For all he believes winter track should also be a good compliment to the students’ studies because it helps them get better at time management.
His primary focus is what he asks of all participants, which he says is, “I ask the members of the team to get a little better every day.” He said he hopes, “…they grow through the winter season and peak in the spring.” His other expectations for the team are to perform well in the state and sectional tournaments.
One of the things he likes about the sport is “There is a great diversity of on the team, but they are all on the same team and support each other. Everyone enjoys coming to practice every day.” He feels this has led to a strong “team culture” that has created strong support and trust from the students and the parents.
The coach breaks track into three categories - sprinting, distance and throwing. Because there are few indoor practice facilities, the Jonathan Dayton teams practice outdoors on the Bulldogs’ turf field. For the running events, cones are used to help recreate the 200-meter track found in the indoor facilities used for track meets. The meets will be held at the Jersey City Armory, the New York City Amory and the Bennett Complex in Toms River.
Four of last year’s four by four freshman spring track relay team that set school records will be participating in winter track and the group of students participating in throwing is much larger. In winter track, throwing is the shot-put.
Helping the coach with winter track are Assistants Chris Adams and Greg Salmon. Bryan Balletto is a volunteer assistant and Greg Salmon is Head Coach of the girls spring track team.
Matt VanDeursen is also is his seventh year at Jonathan Dayton High School. He teaches world and History at the high school. During the fall, he is the assistant coach for Westfield High School’s cross-country team.
A life-long resident of New Jersey, he got his undergraduate degree and Masters in Education from St. Peters University. While he was an undergraduate, he ran distance races for the track team and swam distance races for the swimming team.
The season’s schedule follows:
Saturday December 9: Scrimmage at Cranford 10 a.m.
Saturday December 16: Hall of Fame Invitational @ NYC Armory 8:30 a.m.
Friday December 29: Marine Corps Holiday Invitational @ NYC Armory 8:30 a.m.
Saturday January 6: Union County Relay Championships @ Jersey City Armory 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday January 9: Dual meet vs. Brearley 4 p.m.
Saturday January 20: Group I State Relays @ Toms River 3 p.m.
Saturday January 27: Union County Championships @ Jersey City Armory 8:30 a.m.
Thursday February 1: Meet vs. Brearley 4 p.m.
Saturday February 10: Central Jersey Group I State Sectional Championships @ Toms River 3:30 p.m.
Saturday February 17: Group I State Championships @ Toms River 9 a.m.
Tuesday February 20: Eastern States Championships @ NYC Armory 4 p.m.
Saturday February 24: NJSIAA Boys Meet of Champions 10 a.m.
Sunday February 25: NJSIAA Girls Meet of Champions 10 a.m.