By Nicole DeStefano
To the men’s and women’s track teams, one thing is just as important as hard work — unity. The Lions track teams displayed both in a second-place finish to Rowan University at the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Indoor Championships on Monday, Feb. 22.
“Our team is a very supportive group of girls and that’s one of the things that makes our team so special,” freshman Kathleen Jaeger said. “We have a partner, or buddy, and before every meet, we give them a little gift and a note motivating them for the day. It’s something so small that encourages each other and really lets each other know that they have the whole support of the team behind them.”
Jaeger contributed big when she clocked a 2:16.93 in the 800-meter, a first-place victory that added 10 points to the women’s total of 171.
Jaeger was not the only freshman to step up Monday night for the women. Freshman Erin Holzbaur took second place in the mile with a time of 5:10.96 and in the 3,000-meter race with a time of 10:34.16.
The Lions proved to be dominant in the 5,000-meter race. Seniors Marissa Lerit and Carly Martz and freshman Natalie Cooper swept first, second and third, respectively. The women also swept the 3,000-meter race with freshman Madeleine Tattory (10:47.10) and Lerit (10:48.34) both following Holzbaur for second and third place, respectively.
The success for the Lady Lions did not end with the distance events. Senior Joy Spriggs sprinted to a second place finish with a time of 58.95 in the 400-meter race. She also placed sixth in the 200-meter race.
Senior Courtney Paciulli brought success for the team in the field events. She hit the sand with a second-place performance of 10.85 meters in the triple jump and placed within the top eight for the long jump. Paciulli contributed a total of 14 points for the Lions that night.
“I was extremely proud of my team after NJACs,” Jaeger said. “Being in that type of competitive environment really brings out the team pride, so it was exciting being able to watch and cheer on my teammates while they competed and excelled in their events.”
On the men’s side, they dominated the distance events of the meet. Freshman Noah Osterhus posted an impressive second place finish in the 800-meter race with a time of 1:56:62, contributing to the team’s total of 130 points. The trio of sophomore Daniel Lynch (1:56.80), freshman Jack Wood (1:56.96) and freshman Thomas Livecchi (1:58.45) placed fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
In the one-mile race, junior Brandon Mazzarella took third with a time of 4:16:83.
Senior Jonathan Stouber led the pack in the 5,000-meter race with a first-place time of 15:11.35.
“I think the team did a very good job at NJACs,” Stouber said. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle to win, but everyone stayed positive and went out there and ran, threw and jumped with everything they had”
The jumping events were highlighted by sophomore Andrew McNutt. He landed 13.92 meters from the stripe in the triple jump to finish in second place. He also finished eighth in the long jump.
A portion of the team achieved personal bests when they returned to the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex four days later to compete at the Fastrack Last Chance Meet on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Spriggs improved her time in the 400-meter race to a season-best time of 57.73.
The men’s 4×800-meter relay team shattered the College’s record by three seconds with a time of 7:46.27. The relay consisted of Mazzarella, Lynch, freshman Jack Wood and Osterhus.
“I thought this was one of the most complete team performances at a conference meet since I’ve been coaching at TCNJ,” head coach Justin Lindsey said. “Building a balanced team is how you win team titles on a consistent basis… The experience upperclassmen have will help the freshmen adjust to collegiate competition and in return the freshmen develop confidence through the support of the upperclassmen. This creates a universal support system needed to compete at the highest level. This also creates a family environment because everyone is on the same page going after a common goal.”