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Big Blue Beat: Varsity Track & Field Teams

Compiled by Hodiah Davidson '19

Head Coaches: Tim Grant (girls) and Mark Sepkowski (boys)

Last season's highlights:
Last spring was a record-breaking season for Big Blue track and field athletes, as Julia Dannenbaum '17 (pole vault), Nicole Vanasse '20 (800 and 1600), Sophia Weldon '18 (triple and high jumps), Austin Parsons '18 (javelin), and Zach Aanstoots '18 (long and high jump) all broke school records—in some cases, more than once! Following a third-place finish for the girls and a ninth-place finish for the boys in the Non-Public "A" Championships at the end of May, a total of 12 athletes advanced to the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Four athletes—Julia, Nicole, Sophia, and Austin—even qualified for the prestigious New Balance Nationals Outdoor in North Carolina in June. Other noteworthy performers included pole vaulters Carol Ann Perry '20 and Caroline Dannenbaum '20, who, behind Julia, took fourth and fifth, respectively, in the state group championships. At the same meet, Kelsey Ransom '20, who was ranked #2 in the state among freshmen triple jumpers, placed fifth in the event. Grace O'Mara placed third in the discus.

What to watch for this season:

• The girls' team, captained by Grace O'Mara '19, Avery Schiffman '18, and Sophia Weldon '18, is coming off a very successful winter season, in which more records were smashed. They placed second to a very competitive Union Catholic in the Non-Public "A" Championships in February, and at the Meet of Champions a week later, Nicole Vanasse '20 won the 3200 meters with a PR and school record of 10:34, securing a #3 national ranking. Freshman Ryan Davi took second in the 800 meters in a blazing 2:12, giving her the 10th fastest time of any high schooler in the nation, and the best time for a freshman. So, look for more impressive performances on the outdoor track. Watch also for sophomores Caroline Dannenbaum and Carol Ann Perry to be state leaders in the pole vault (they broke the all-group meet record at the Non-Public "B" Relay Championships in January, vaulting a combined height of 23'6").

• The boys' team, led by senior captains Obi Nnaeto '18, Austin Parsons '18, and Ben Vazquez '18, will continue their momentum from the winter season, during which Ben set a school record in the 600-meter run (1:58) at February's Eastern State Championships and Joe Shilts '19 broke a school record in the 300 meters (40.1) at the Bishop Laughlin Games in December. Ben is poised to assault the 800-meter record as well. Last spring he ran 1:57, within seconds of the 1:54 that Dan Schuchinsky '09 ran several years ago. Watch also for Henry Wood '21, who competed in the freshman 1600-meter run at New Balance Nationals Indoor in March. Having run 4:35 indoors over the winter season, he is chasing the form record of Liam Mullet '14 in the 1600-meter run (Mullet's time of 4:33 is well within his sights). In field events, watch for Zach Aanstoots '18, who, in his first season in the sport last spring, broke the school's high jump record, clearing 6'4". Teammate Obi Nnaeto '18 is third on Pingry's all-time long jump list, just behind Zach. Both are long jumpers to watch. Austin Parsons '18, who placed fifth in the javelin at the state finals last year with a throw of 193'5", came within feet of breaking a 50-year school record of 202'9", and will be chasing it this spring. 

• This season, Coach Grant anticipates the girls' toughest competition to come from talent-stacked Union Catholic. They will be looking to equal their impressive second-place finish to them during the winter season when they square off again at the Non-Public "A" Championships at the end of May.

• The boys will aim to improve upon their fifth-place finish at the Somerset County Relays and ninth-place finish at the state championships last year.  

• Their first meet, NJISAA Relays, will be on April 7th at Lawrenceville.

Full-court press:

"This is one of the most talented group of track and field athletes and should have another record-breaking season."—Girls' Head Coach Tim Grant

"Our large group of Form III and IV athletes will add depth to our elite senior group and gives us much promise for the upcoming season. It is plain to see by the numbers that this team, led by some very strong athletes, will not only compete with the accomplishments of past Pingry athletes, but will serve as inspiration for future generations of track and field athletes as well."—Boys' Head Coach Mark Sepkowski 

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,