Winter track team moves forward without 2020 indoor National qualifiers

Valley looks to its future after loss of strong senior class

Senior+Joe+Mercurio+attempts+to+stick+the+landing+in+the+long+jump+pit.+The+winter+track+team+looks+to+have+similar+success+to+last+year%2C+when+its+Sprint+Medley+Relay+reached+the+New+Balance+Nationals.

Matt Austin

Senior Joe Mercurio attempts to stick the landing in the long jump pit. The winter track team looks to have similar success to last year, when its Sprint Medley Relay reached the New Balance Nationals.

Ethan Perlman, Sports Writer

Three graduates from last season’s winter track team reached Nationals last year, but just like in all sports, it is always hard to get back to the big stage year after year.

“[We had] a huge squad loss on the boys side however I do not want [the team] to live in the shadow of last year,” Head Coach Anthony Judilla said. “I want them to come into their own place.”

Judilla is in his second year as head coach of the winter track team and believes that his team is capable of reaching the big stage again, despite the loss of 2020 graduates Eddie Mercurio, Oren Roznitsky, and Andrew Martinez, all three of which reached Nationals as part of PV’s Sprint Medley Relay.

Even though the meets are scheduled to happen outside, it has still made it hard for Judilla to figure out when the team will start competing.

“Scheduling has been a nightmare with COVID this season,” Judilla said. “Governing officials have not released a schedule yet because of COVID restrictions and gathering guidelines.”

Although the pandemic has delayed winter track, some of the runners have been completing workouts assigned by Judilla outside of practice.

“These [workouts] were more suggestions, making sure everyone is staying healthy [and] keeping [their] current level of athletic fitness until we can meet as a team,” Judilla said.

The winter track team had success last season, however the medals are not what Judilla focuses on. PV’s head coach focuses more on the progress runners make throughout the season.

“I take a different approach than other coaches,” Judilla said. “I focus on the intrinsic skills that you might learn while playing a sport.”

Although Judilla does not like to solely focus on awards, he is hoping for one or two specific accomplishments for the team this season.

“I want my girls [4×400-meter relay] to make it to State Groups. [They] need to place top six at sectional,” Judilla said. “They are a very talented group.”

As if the pandemic was not a big enough challenge, the amount of runners on the winter track roster this year is significantly lower than in years past.

“We have a much smaller squad, our roster usually has 100, now [we] have 40 or 50 on the ,” Judilla said.

Judilla still has high hopes for the season and anticipates that the team will be able to run winter track this year, despite the pandemic. No matter the circumstances, Judilla is confident that the team will be ready to compete and give it their all.

“[Our players’] mentality that comes with running and competing in winter track [is that] they know it’s not just a spring season condensed and put indoors,” Judilla said. “Training in [the] harsh cold weather and competing in a climate control room is something the team is used to.”

The entire team is looking forward to the season, with hopes of developing skills that will not only help in running, but also in the rest of their lives.

“While I do focus on content and the general plan for how they flourish and grow, I also focus on things they might learn in school like being prepared and communicating with their peers and coaches,” Judilla said.