VERONA, NJ - Winter Track is not for the faint of heart.  It requires dedication and motivation -- something that Senior Captain Jason Siegelin delivers every day, making him the TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.

"I've worked really hard, especially this season so it's great that some people are recognizing that," Siegelin said of his Athlete of the Week selection.  "I'm really thankful that my hard work is paying off."  

"Winter track is not an easy sport to compete in.  It really takes a lot if mental toughness and dedication to get out there and run on those freezing days," said Head Coach Laura Palmerezzi.  "The weather constantly determines our practice and workouts.  Jason is out there in his shorts going on long runs and completing workouts, never complaining." 

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His hard work and dedication has been paying off.  Palmerezzi said Siegelin had an impressive showing at the Essex County Championships, running 2:06 in the 800m and an indoor mile time of 4:55.  She feels he is in great shape for entering into the state sectionals in February. 

Siegelin is also pleased with the way the team's season has progressed so far. 

"We've been gradually improving all season.  We started in early December and now it's almost February and most of us have beaten our personal record and all of us have been free of injuries," he added.  "The majority of the team have been placing well, including myself, and I'm really proud of that."

According to Siegelin, maintaining his training schedule is the biggest challenge with winter track, but he keeps at it. 

"Any runner will tell you that it's hard to run outdoors in the winter.  It's hard breathing in that cold air and keeping my legs healthy," he said.  "it's hard to keep motivated and get outside in the freezing temps this time of year."

Avoiding injury is always a top goal for the team.  Siegelin said all of his teammates push hard in practice, which can put them at risk given the conditions in which they are running.  "Injuries can be caused by the conditions we are running in -- there's ice and the surface we are running on can be hard on the ankles," he explained.  "Every time we run outside it's a risk."

Yet the team goes out every day and practices.  Siegelin said that dedication and hard work has led to great performances from himself and his teammates.  "A highlight of the season for me personally was getting under five minutes in the mile indoors," he said.  "Any runner will tell you it's physically harder to run indoors for a lot of reasons, so to get under five in the mile was a great accomplishment."

"As for the team, our over all performance at the Essex County Championships was a highlight.  We worked really hard to prepare for that and a lot of guys placed at the top including myself," he added.  "I impressed myself.  I was impressed by my teammates.  I think we all were impressed by our performance."

Looking ahead, Siegelin has set a personal goal of getting under two minutes in the 800m -- he's at 2:06 currently.  For the team, Siegeiln wants to make sure they maintain their training schedule and keep preparing for the spring and he feels his coach is just the person to help them do that.

"She's been amazing in motivating us," he said.  "She's been able to lead us in the right direction."

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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