NEW YORK, NY – The Westfield boys winter track team concluded a historic winter season this past weekend, setting two new school records at the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet in the 4x400 and 4x200.
Both relays were comprised of seniors Matthew McIntyre, Ajay Olson, Jake Saltzer and Steve Zucker. McIntyre started the 4x200 in 23.4, giving Olson (21.8) the baton in fifth. Olson handed the baton to Zucker (23.06) in fourth, passing off to Saltzer (21.79), who crossed the finish line in third with a total time of 1:30:03. They finished 12th overall.
In the 4x400 race, Olson (51.32) lead off, handing Zucker (51.48) the baton in third. Zucker surged ahead to lead the race, falling back to fourth in the final straight. McIntyre (50.65) filled the gap to second but also gave Saltzer the baton in fourth. Saltzer (48.73) climbed the race finishing 2nd, with a total time of 3:22:18. They placed 9th overall in the meet.
“They ran the way I thought they would perform,” said head coach Chris Tafelski. “If you look the way the season's gone, they were on that trajectory the whole way. The next logical step is what they did.”
Tafelski said the team's camaraderie enhanced its performances.
“Having a team goal that everyone buys into and believes in elevates everyone's performances,” he said. “When people buy in and believe, they all achieve things they probably wouldn't get to on their own.”
Both relays beat records they previously held. The exact same 4x400m relay held the previous record of 3:24:29 from their Meet of Champions win, and held the previous 4x200m record of 1:30:53 from the Eastern States meet both in February.
“I think we did fantastic, not just at nationals, but at every race we went to this season,” Saltzer said.
Hidden in the relay’s success this winter, was that McIntyre, a critical relay leg, was in his first season doing track.
“I initially ran track to get faster for baseball,” he said. “I had no idea I would end up racing the best runners in America. The feeling you get after racing at nationals, it’s hard to relate to unless you've been there. It is something you want to do again.”
McIntyre will leave the track for baseball this spring, where he is a varsity captain and starting pitcher.
Tafelski predicts Westfield's relay teams will continue to succeed, and wonders how much similar raw talent wanders the halls of Westfield High School.
“What other guys do we have in Westfield High School that could be capable of similar things?” he said referencing McIntyre’s success. “Who can benefit the team in a similar fashion? It just has me wonder.”
Writer Daniel Han is a Westfield High School senior participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.