Winning has become a part of the Hopatcong Boys’ track team’s culture. It has been 4 straight seasons since the team, led by head coach and teacher, Mr. Mike Juskus, has lost a conference dual meet. 2013 was one of the best seasons the program has ever had, going undefeated and also winning both an NJAC small school championship and a Sectional championship. But, could they keep the momentum going in 2014 with the loss of several members of last year’s team, including current Monmouth Athlete Dylan Capwell and NJIT athlete Trent Pezzano?
This 2014 squad has certainly answered those questions following 3 straight strong performances over the past week. On Saturday, the Chiefs trekked up to Morris Hills High school to compete in the Morris Hails relays, one of the most competitive relays in the area, year in and year out, with over 25 schools competing. Strong performances flowed in and medals were received. The Chiefs took 1st overall in the small schools’ competition with 21 points. The big win of the day came from the accomplished high jump trio of seniors Stephen Rogers and Ryan Clarke, and junior Tobi Olugbenga with a combined jump height of 18’. Rogers led the way by clearing a meet best 6’4”. His day wasn’t over either, as he, Olugbenga and senior Victor Cotto took second overall in the triple jump. Other good marks came from the sprint medley relay team comprised of seniors Johann Lara and Chris Dugan, junior Pablo Lorenzo, and sophomore Andrew Nee. They took 5th overall. These came through as valuable points for the overall championship.
“It was a great day for us,” said Rogers. “We did what we are capable of doing and got what we came for, that first place trophy.”
The team was back at it on Monday, as rivaled Lenape Valley came to Hopatcong for a dual meet. It was evident that the Patriots were no match for the Chiefs, as indicated by the final score, 120-14 in favor of Hopatcong. Goof Marks were once again posted; junior Zack Smith threw personal best 138’ feet in the javelin and senior distance runner Brian Attas set a new personal best by running a 4:59 mile.
“It’s always a good time to beat Lenape,” said Lara. “But we are all already focused on tomorrow’s meet with Kittatinny.”
3 meets in 4 days is no easy feat to pull off for any track athlete. But the 4-0 Chiefs were ready. Tuesday they took the bus up to Kittatinny High School for a meet with the team who was projected to give Hopatcong the biggest run for their money. It was a yucky, rainy day but the team was full of focus. Hopatcong’s Max Cafaro and Olugbenga started the meet the right way, by taking 1st and 3rd respectively in the 400 intermediate hurdles and both pulling out personal bests in that event. That set the theme for the day. Personal best were rolling in: Lara with a 50.7 in the open 400, Rogers with a school record 15.4 in the 110 high hurdles, Attas with a 4:51 mile, senior Jesse Farrell with a 2:13 800, and sophomore Jake Dorman with a 132’ throw in the Javelin. Athletes such as Clarke and Dugan did their jobs, as well, both placing first in 2 events each. Hopatcong won the meet, 84-47.
“This was definitely our biggest win of the year. Everyone competed hard and did their jobs. It’s good to see the hard work paying off,” said Cafaro, who now ranks third all-time in Hopatcong boys’ track history in the 400 hurdles.
The team will have a week off of meets until next week when they face Sussex Tech; after that comes the bigger meets where all the athletes will look to shine. Meets such as the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex meet, the Sussex County Championship meet, the NJAC Championships, and sectionals will all come within 3 weeks of each other. They aim to do well both individually and as a team and capture more championships!