Track and field ‘building a good base for the future’

Valley returns strong group of seniors, but lacks team depth

Senior+Chris+Alepa+runs+long+distance+for+the+track+and+field+team.+Alepa+is+one+of+many+seniors+who+will+provide+leadership+for+the+team+in+2021.

Senior Chris Alepa runs long distance for the track and field team. Alepa is one of many seniors who will provide leadership for the team in 2021.

BJ McGrane, Sports Editor

For nearly all spring sports, the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 resulted in a two-year absence from competition. Track and field is the lone exception, having the winter track season and the cross country season as opportunities for its athletes to participate in track, even with the loss of last season.

“I always joke [that] I have two other sports that run my preseason, so I don’t have to do preseason workouts,” coach Al Cann said.

Although Cann does not coach winter track or cross country, assistant coaches John Murtaugh and Anthony Judilla serve as the head coaches for cross country and winter track respectively, giving the coaches the chance to see much of their team in action several months prior to the start of the spring season.

“I was definitely told about some good athletes and runners that will be coming up, so I have a little bit of an advantage,” Cann said.

The track and field team has had opportunities to compete prior to the spring season, but not without some bumps in the road. According to Cann, harsh weather conditions caused the track to be “covered” for much of the winter, which diminished the amount of “track work” that the winter track team was able to do.

Junior Julianna Mullaney runs in the 4×400-meter relay. (Matt Austin)

In the past, the track and field team suffered from its athletes attempting to participate in multiple sports in addition to track and field, cutting into the amount of time they are with the team. This season, the majority of the team is laser-focused on one sport, and one sport only.

“Kids are buying into [the team] a little bit more,” Cann said. “They’re giving us one-hundred percent, so that sort of discipline will be helpful for us.”

The team is led by a number of seniors who have been with the team for the entirety of their four years at Pascack Valley, including sprinters Will Kim, Mike Supple, John Supple, Danny DeMilia and Jack Misha, along with long distance runner Chris Alepa.

The girls are led by a strong group of juniors, including Julianna Mullaney and Jessie Ricco, with Izzy Forcellati looking to make an impact in her first season with the track and field team.

The cancellation of the 2020 season results in the juniors getting on the track for the first time since their freshman year, leading to a drastic role change for some.

“[Mullaney and Ricco] were just starting to become varsity athletes as freshmen,” Cann said.

In addition to the upperclassmen who will lead the way for Valley, the team will look for contributions from some underclassmen who will be getting their first experience with the spring team. Sophomore long distance runners Mike Pizzella and Connor Oates will finally be getting the chance to run spring track.

“[A goal] would be for our kids who are just running varsity for the first time to continue to progress,” Cann said.

Senior Joe Mercurio competes in the long jump for Pascack Valley.

In addition to the events on the track, Valley has some returning athletes in the field events as well. In the throwing events, Valley returns juniors Hunter Donne and Erin Vollers along with senior Sarah Martin-Moons, all of whom Cann describes as “veterans” in their events.

Senior Orlando Ocelotl and junior Gabby Sandt will lead the pole vaulters, with the high jump being headlined by seniors Stefan Stanescu and Brian Digeratu.

Being thrust into the role of a senior after completely missing their junior season, Cann is impressed with the development of the upperclassmen thus far.

“[Stanescu and Digeratu] are starting to progress as seniors and leaders,” Cann said.

Although the track and field team has an abundance of leadership, depth has proven to be an issue for Valley. with PV being able to take home some individual place winners, but having trouble getting multiple athletes to the podium. The large number of newcomers could also pose a problem for Valley, with many needing to find their niche on the team.

“We don’t have the depth to compete against the big [teams]” Cann said. “[We have] a lot of new kids that are just starting to discover what they can do. It’ll take [some] time for those kids to mature a little bit and find the events where they can have the most success.”

The team may struggle with its lack of depth in each event and lack of experience, but Valley is looking at the big picture in 2021.

“With the kids being more accountable and being more dedicated to the program, I think we are building a good base for the future,” Cann said.