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Meet the seven Pingry seniors—equally committed in the classroom as they are in their sport—who earned this year's conference, county, Prep, and state honors. 

Big Blue Beat: Girls' and Boys' Varsity Track & Field Teams

By Armani Davidson '19


Head Coaches: Tim Grant (girls) and Chris Shilts (boys)

Last season's highlights:
The 2018 Boys' and Girls' Varsity Track & Field Teams had a record-breaking season under captains Grace O'Mara '19, Avery Schiffman '18, Sophia Weldon '18, Obi Nnaeto '18, Austin Parsons '18, and Ben Vazquez '18. The many school records broken included Caroline Dannenbaum '20 (pole vault, 13'); Zach Aanstoots '18 (high jump, 6'8"); Austin Parsons '18 (javelin, 195'6"); Grace O'Mara '19 (discus, 123'05"); and Nicole Vanasse '20 (1600-meter run, 4:53.30; 3,000-meter run, 9:50.85). Big Blue had four place-winners at the Somerset County Championships, nine at the NJSIAA Non-Public A Championships—where the girls' team placed fourth overall out of 16 teams—and, capping off the season, saw nine athletes qualify for the 2018 Meet of Champions on June 9. At the meet, an impressive four of them placed in the top three in their respective events and took home medals: Caroline took second in the pole vault (12'6"); Nicole took third in the 1600-meter run (4:57); Zach placed third in the high jump (6'6"); and Austin earned silver in the javelin (195'6"). Six athletes total—Nicole, Sophia, Caroline, Ben, Zach, and Austin—qualified for New Balance Outdoors Nationals, held in Greensboro, North Carolina.

What to watch for this season:
• Grace O'Mara '19, Alexandra Lima '19, and Nicole Vanasse '20 will captain a roster of 40 girls, four of whom are seniors. Joe Shilts '19, Jeff Xiao '19, and Nick Robinson '19 will captain a roster of more than 30 boys, 11 of whom are seniors.

• On the girls' team, watch for the following athletes, some of whom already hold school records, to contend for top spots in the big meets: Grace in discus, Solape Fakorede '19 in shot put, Nicole in distance events, Carol Ann Perry '20 and Caroline Dannenbaum '20 in pole vault, and Lauren Taylor '20 and Kierstyn Brown '20 in sprints.

• Coach Shilts, an assistant outdoor track & field coach for Big Blue since 2000—in addition to the Head Coach of the Boys' Varsity Football Team—takes over this spring from longtime Head Coach of the boys' team, Mark Sepkowski. Look out for Henry Wood '21 and Joe, who had successful indoor seasons (Joe won the 55-meter hurdles at the Prep A Championships and Henry placed fourth in the 1600-meter run). In addition, thrower Ore Shote '21 as well as distance runners Tom Drzik '19 and Jeff Xiao '19, both of whom had strong cross country seasons, will be athletes to watch.

• This year, the girls' biggest rival is the perennially strong Union Catholic. Coach Grant wants to continue to challenge them for the NJSIAA Non-Public A State Championship title.

• Delaware Valley, Warren Hills, and Somerville will provide tough competition for the boys' team.

• As Coach Shilts explains, "The Non-Public A bracket is the best, and it's exciting to do what we have to do to break through there and get points. Track is about time, distance, and height.There's no subjectivity. We want the team to realize what these times mean and push them to contend for points at the big meets."

• The team's opening meet is on April 3 against Hillsborough at the Radar Relays. Preseason practices began on Friday, March 1.

Full-court press:
"The general sense is that for us to get better, we need to know what it means to be good. Then we have to give that next step to be better than good. Then work towards excellence. It doesn't happen overnight, were not going to ask our kids what they can't do, but we are going to ask them to get better. I want to instill in the kids what it means to be better and strive for excellence."—Head Coach Shilts

"Each year our team builds memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Records will be set, but more important, each athlete will feel the joy of their peers and coaches as they improve and compete."—Head Coach Grant

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,