If you had to summarize the Hunterdon Central High School boys track and field team in one word, that word would be “everything.”
The Red Devils have it all: runners, jumpers, throwers, experience. And they have one more thing that makes a big difference in this most psychological of sports.
“This team can be absolutely fantastic,” senior sprinter Chris Del Rossi said. “We could break a couple of school records that might stand for a very long time. It’s going to be the best team to ever come through Hunterdon Central.”
Senior thrower David McGriff was even more direct.
“I don’t see any reason why we should lose anything really, up to the Group IV meet,” he said.
The big dreams are warranted. This past winter the Red Devils broke through, winning the Skyland Conference meet and sharing the Central Group IV title with powerhouse Trenton.
“This is definitely the best spring group I’ve had,” said head coach John DeLisle, who took the reins in 2007. “We have a ton of good guys in that senior group. Since the time they were freshmen, you could tell they were really into track.”
That group is headed by the Lehigh-bound Del Rossi, who has clocked 49.8 in the 400 meters and 22.6 in the 200, and Brendan Jaeger, a 1:56 half-miler. Senior Connor Barry was a regular on the 4×400 team that ran 3:28 indoors. Senior Mike Turck is a mainstay in the 400 and 800 plus a 20-foot long jumper.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Del Rossi runs 48 in the 400 and cracks 22 in the 200,” DeLisle said. “He’s really come on strong.”
The Red Devils took a hit two days before the first practice when senior Mike Phillips, who has cleared 6-4 in the high jump and ran on the 4×400, ruptured an Achilles tendon in gym class.
“It’s a killer loss because he could do so much for us,” DeLisle said.
Others are available to pick up the slack. Junior Sam Little is a 2:01 indoor half-miler who has switched over from lacrosse. Senior Tony Cuccaro is a 20-foot long-jumper. Three pole vaulters have gone over 12-0: junior Tyler Bernstein (13-0 indoors), senior Billy Sanchez and junior Alex Kossak. Senior Vince Harnett has bested 160 feet in the javelin.
Then there’s McGriff, possibly the most versatile athlete in the Skyland Conference. The senior owns personal bests of 52-10 in the shot put, 148-5 in the discus and 21-6 in the long jump. He also triple jumps.
“The kid is a track nut,” DeLisle said. “Pretty much anything he touches, he turns to gold.”
McGriff is headed to Lafayette in the fall and will contest the decathlon as a collegian.
“My family has basically been sprinters and jumpers, but I developed a passion for throwing,” he said. “With the training for throwing along with the natural genes for running and jumping, it kind of came together for me.”
It’s coming together for the entire program this spring.
“We’re hoping to continue the tradition we started in the winter,” Jaeger said. “In practice we all push each other. We have that one common goal.”
The goal is to run the table and break records along the way. The Hunterdon County 4×400 standard, 3:21, is one of many markers in their sights.
“We would love to be under 3:20,” Jaeger said. “Might as well make that record a little faster.”