The Generations of Nutley Track And Field
The Maroon and Gray, over a time period of 100 years, has covered an abundant amount of sports. However, one of Nutley’s most historic sports over this time period has been the NHS track and field team. Since 1947, the Nutley track and field team has offered plenty of raw talent and grit to the sport; they are no stranger to competition.
This year’s spring track team was comprised of a total of 137 athletes. Leading all track and field operations is head coach Gerald Ryan, with the help of his assistant coaches from sprinting events to pole vaulting. The team calls Demuro Park, a small hilltop track next to basketball and tennis courts, home. The team holds daily workouts and home meets at Demuro Park. After getting dressed and ready to go, athletes proceed to their warm-up stations, and meet with their event coaches. The team is a lively and close bunch, and often one cannot help but feel like they are surrounded by a family. On meet days in particular, Demuro becomes decorated for competition. Jumping pits are out, hurdles stand tall, shot putters stand in the cage preparing to throw, and sprinters grab their starting blocks and proceed to the starting line. A crowd gathers and parents and friends come to cheer on their maroon-uniformed pals.
In 1959 however, the track and field team was missing this spirit. Often referred to as the “trackless track team,” Nutley’s athletes had to gather in Brookdale Park to commence practice. The 1959 issue of the Maroon and Gray reported that only two lettermen would return and the team would lose three of its top competitors to graduation and another two to ineligibility. The head coach during this period, Louis Zwirek, blamed the team’s initial struggle on, “the team lacking experience and is also handicapped by lack of proper facilities.” A part of what was known as the “Big Ten Conference,” Nutley competed in a total of 13 meets that year with only a few athletes before a time when girls fully integrated into Nutley high school sports in 1977.
So what exactly has changed? The answer is that since uncovering the 1959 issue which did a preview of spring sports, it is clear that the sport in Nutley High school has been revolutionized. The track team is far from “trackless.” It has a huge turnout of athletes every year, has a track and clubhouse to call home, an array of equipment like jumping pits and hurdles, and even the workouts are different.
Mr. Ryan, who threw for Nutley High school in 1990, believes so much has changed since then. He points out that technology and social media have taken major role in today’s track and field scene. “Today kids can go online and find out everything about an Olympian’s training habits and they may try to mimic them," Ryan said. "Back when I threw for Nutley, I was lucky to have Bob O'Dell as a coach. I was doing plyometrics and a lot work with med balls.”
Ryan also pointed out that even the way meets are carried out have greatly changed, “The meet schedule has changed a bit as well. We would sometimes have two a week then a relay meet on Saturday. I prefer to cut back on competitions and focus on getting good quality workout days in.” Coach Ryan and his coaches, who are all highly experienced and former track and field athletes, strive to put what they have learned to the test with the organization of workouts and meet production to help athletes maximize performance.
This year's season went well, overall. Both the girls' and boys' teams finished with a 6-2 record as well as a 3rd place finish in the Super Essex Conference Championship meet. According to Nutleyahletics.org and stats provided by coach Ryan at Sectionals, the boys' team finished a strong sixth out of 19 teams competing. Senior James Quinn won his first ever States title in the 3200 meters and claimed second in the 1600 meters. The 800-meter-relay grabbed third place as well as jumper Eli Acosta second in the high jump and fourth in the long jump. Sprinter Anthony Gola clocked a speedy time of 11.50 to earn a 6th place finish.
For the girls, there was plenty of success too. The 400-meter-relay team ran a historic time of 4:07.39, breaking the high school’s record. Junior Danielle Lohf claimed fifth in the Javelin competition, and plenty of personal records were broken by Jaela Small, Sam Gabrielle, Ava Tucker, Isabella Lopez, Rachel Caruso, the Contini sisters Kate and Anna, and Maise Jelley. All of those who earned a medal at state sectionals now move on to the Group 3 meet to compete against some of the best talent in the state.
The future is bright for Nutley Track and Field. Though many seniors leave holes in the team, there are many young promising athletes who look to fill in their shoes. “I can see great things or both the boys' and girls' teams in the future,” said coach Ryan. “I would love to challenge for the team title at the state sectional meet in the near future.”
The team has seen an increase in athletes from sports like soccer and football who are picking up the sport of track and field. “I think that enough kids who are primarily soccer players or football players see the benefits of being on the track team and more quality athletes will come out for the team.” With talented athletes trying on track spikes instead of cleats, the future does look promising for Nutley’s “trackful track team.”