Brian Zatorski is a championship machine.
Name a title. Chances are his girls cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams have won it.
Zatorski is in his 45th straight season of coaching at Southern Regional. What does he most enjoy about coaching?
“Winning,” he said. “That’s it. If we can’t win, it’s not going to be any fun. Don’t get me wrong. I love the kids. Picking up that trophy or sending my athletes over to the table to pick up that trophy is unique. That never gets old. When these girls graduate, they will remember the trophies 10-15 years from now.
“Even when a junior varsity athlete finishes fourth in a personal-best effort, it’s still winning to me. An athlete comes to a meet with nothing and leaves with something.”
The indoor season was chock full of championships for the Rams.
They won the Ocean County, Shore Conference, NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV and Ocean County Relays titles. And they did it without two of their top athletes, distance runners Jill Smith and Danielle Smolyn, sidelined for the season with stress fractures in their shins.
Plenty of Rams picked up the pieces, especially at the Shore Conference meet where Southern failed to win a gold medal.
“We won the event we wanted to win and that’s the trophy,” Zatorski said. “That gets lost on some teams. We have a huge advantage as we are one of the bigger schools in the Shore Conference. That gives us an advantage over Point Pleasant Boro, which is a great team from a tiny school. It’s tough for a school like that to field a team with quality athletes in every event.
“A lot of teams don’t put a major emphasis on winning the team titles, but winning the Shore Conference meet is a major, major achievement. When I coached in college (at Monmouth University), we always wanted to win the Northeast Conference and that’s the formula I use at Southern.”
Southern’s top performers this year were Brianna Angellella (400, 4×400, high jump), Melana Hammel (800), Isabel Barsch (shot put), Courtney Muraczewski (800), Kaitlyn Mooney (1600, 3200) and Samantha Burns (pole vault).
“Heading into this year, we felt this would be a learning year,” said Zatorski, assisted by Jason Church (jumps) and Mike Concilio (throws). “We graduated our best class, by far our best class. This year, I felt we would take our lumps a little bit.”
However, the Rams kept their tradition of championships alive.
“We have won every race there is in high school,” Zatorski said. “Today, we had a bad warmup (as the Rams prepared for the outdoor season) and it ruined my entire day. I got the girls together after practice. I did not rip them. I said, ‘What was that?’ ”
Not even Zatorski, a Southern guidance counselor, knows how much longer he will continue to coach. However, the father of three children ages six, four and one admitted to feeling the stresses of balancing his family and professional lives.
“It’s getting very, very difficult,” he said. “I guess I will coach for as long as Southern will keep me. I am not looking for the door, but I am also aware of the fact our children will be getting into soccer and gymnastics. It will be tough to miss a lot of that stuff. I do know I won’t make that decision on my drive home tonight.”