Veteran leadership, young core to lead cross country team

Upperclassmen leadership is backed by production from youth


Matt Austin

The Pascack Valley cross country team runs on a trail in practice. The team will lean on its senior leadership and production from its youth this season.

BJ McGrane, Sports Editor

Pascack Valley cross country looks to follow the leadership of its seniors, in addition to the production of its sophomores and juniors this season. (BJ McGrane)

Coach: John Murtaugh

Key Returners: Jack Hachadourian (Sr.), Chris Alepa (Sr.), Janine Hartman (Sr.), Julia Wrenn (Sr.), Michael Pizzella (So.), Connor Oates (So.), Aaron Ng (So.), Chris Martino (So.), Brendan Noone (Jr.)

Murtaugh points to the leadership of his upperclassmen as the reason the team was able to stay in shape in the offseason and “literally hit the ground running,” when practice started towards the start of the school year.

“[The upperclassmen] leadership got us through the summer, and some of the quarantine,” Murtaugh said. “[The seniors] took care of following through with the workouts that I posted.”

Strength of Team:

A strong group of sophomores and juniors this year will be looking to build on the success of their freshman year. With a large group of returning sophomores and juniors, the team’s potential success will have much to do with their production.

“I’ve got a solid group of sophomores,” Murtaugh said. “They have come together, and they are running strongly.”


Murtaugh is optimistic about this year, with the leadership of the seniors as well as contributions from the sophomores and juniors. This year in particular may be difficult according to Murtaugh, but the future is bright.

“I don’t know that I can actually say there is a weakness,” Murtaugh said. “We have an abbreviated season but we’re going to make the best of what we’ve got. This year might be a little challenging, but moving down the road, I think if we all stay healthy and all stay together, I think we can be something very nice.”

In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, Murtaugh is focused on the safety of the team and taking advantage of the opportunity to partake in competition this season.

“[We need to] stay healthy, and seize every opportunity we have to compete,” Murtaugh said.

Although the most impactful, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only obstacle the team has overcome prior to the start of the season; the Pascack Valley track is being renovated, rendering it unable to be used for practice purposes just yet.

“We’re limited to what we can do because the track is being worked on, but we’re modifying [our training],” Murtaugh said. “It will work out. I’m the eternal optimist.”

Coach’s Comment:

“So far, even though it’s been a very meager beginning, I like what I see,” Murtaugh said.