Adrian Samsel and the Morris Hills boys track and field team had a very simple goal. They wanted to have a perfect season.
After winning nearly everything a year ago, the Scarlet Knights hoped to surpass that season this spring. They didn’t quite succeed, but Morris Hills came very close – almost close enough to satisfy the athletes themselves. In fact, the Scarlet Knights found new ways to exceed even their own high expectations.
Morris Hills is the All Daily Record Boys Outdoor Track and Field Team of the Year for the second consecutive time. The Scarlet Knights went 7-0 in the NJAC-American, and won the Summit, Ranger and Morris Hills Relays.
Their lone loss came at the Morris County Relays, but the Scarlet Knights rebounded almost immediately. Head coach John Struck spoke to the athletes on the ride back to school, telling them to move on, and right away.
“These kids don’t like losing,” he said. “There was a determination not to let that happen again. This was the first year I didn’t have to give a rah-rah speech. They were more self-motivated. … Everybody just understood there’s big things happening here. Everybody knew what he was supposed to do, and everybody went and did that.”
Morris Hills dominated the NJAC Large School Championship just two days later, then went on to defend its Morris County team title the following week. The Scarlet Knights also took North 1 Group II again, and then went on to claim Group II – the only major championship they hadn’t won last spring, and just the third state title in school history.
“We wanted to do something together,” senior Chris Castillo said. “Just being state champs, that’s something special we’re going to have for the rest of our lives. … We push each other all the time. We didn’t want to see any of us fail, because we’re such good friends. We couldn’t especially for relays. Even when it’s individual, we do it for each other.”
But perhaps their most astounding achievement will likely last long after all the plaques are gathering dust in a case. Morris Hills broke half of Morris County’s track records, and the school now holds all but two, the 4×200 and 4×1,600. Three of those marks – the 4×100, sprint medley and intermediate hurdles – were set at County Relays, a meet the Scarlet Knights would otherwise rather forget.
Morris Hills lowered the shuttle hurdles relay again at New Balance Nationals last week.
“We wanted to come out and put (Morris County Relays) in the past and forget about it,” said Samsel, a senior. “We couldn’t do anything to change it, so we wanted to finish out the season doing what we wanted to do.”