Four years ago, the Rancocas Valley High School boys’ track and field team didn’t win a dual meet.
This year, the Red Devils won the Group 4 championship for the first time in school history.
The difference came three years ago when coach Jeff Dzuranin arrived.
“He raised the bar. There was a whole different kind of attitude,” senior Sterling Pierce said. “He added discipline. He changed us all around. He put us at a higher standard.”
For his efforts this season, Jeff Dzuranin has been selected as the 2015 Courier-Post Boys’ Track and Field Coach of the Year.
“(Assistant coach) Eric Warren worked with the sprinters and we tried to make connections and make them realize the track is more than just running a race,” said Dzuranin.
Sterling Pierce is the son of former Woodbury great Jack Pierce, who was a bronze medalist in the 110 hurdles at the 1992 Olympics and saw the difference Dzuranin and Warren made in the program.
“Those two guys got behind the team and not only put them on the track but told them what the community was feeling about them, what the mission was,” said Jack Pierce after the state championship meet when Rancocas Valley scored 47 points to defeat second-place Egg Harbor Township by 10 points on the Eagles’ home track.
The Red Devils are the first South Jersey boys’ team to win Group 4 since Oakcrest in 2011.
“It is a complete program,” Jack Pierce said. “It’s not just on the track. They work with them mentally, on nutrition, with everything. It made a big difference.”
Dzuranin took over an RV program that went two seasons without winning a dual meet. The Red Devils haven’t lost a dual meet in the last two years.
“I thought it could happen this quick if the kids bought into the program that we set up,” said Dzuranin, who ran track at Steinert High School and Dickinson College. “Anything I do, I go into it 100 percent. I knew going into it it would be a challenge trying to get the kids to buy in and change some of the culture of the program. But the kids were great and they were willing to do what it took.
“Once we set those high expectations, the athletes did everything they could above and beyond of what was expected of them to make it happen.”
The Red Devils are the three-time Burlington County Scholastic League Liberty Division champions.
“He brought winning habits by focusing on the little things, like showing up on time and warming up together,” said Chris Bright, a senior discus thrower.
The team quickly believed in their coach.
“Coach D brought uplifting spirits, constructive criticism, support and just drive to the team,” said Joshua DeJesus, a junior distance runner. “He was a really big factor in our team’s success.”
Added senior middle distance runner Mario Ramos: “He is an amazing coach. He works us hard.”
Shaun Bradley was on the 4×100 relay team with Pierce, JeSean Foster and Dyson Scott that finished first in the Meet of Champions with a 42.03.
“Before he got here, the program was kind of laid back. But Coach D got here and set some new ground rules and we started to dominate,” said Bradley, who is going to Temple for football.
“It’s really a blessing to be a part of it and it brings pride to the school. It’s an absolute honor,” said senior distance runner Jose Colon. “He has given us goals, he has given us new opportunities, he has given us new uniforms, he showed us so many great things.
“He is just amazing. He is just lightning on the track and a great guy,”
Kevin Callahan; (856) 486-2424; email@example.com