TOMS RIVER – Student protests, vicious lawsuits, financial issues, and an impending closure.
The negativity that’s engulfed Mater Dei Prep in recent weeks has been suffocating.
However, the storm cloud coverage hovering above the Seraphs community faded for just over two minutes on Saturday morning at the Bennett Center in Toms River.
That was roughly the amount of time it took senior Tom Mongeau to become the first boys competitor in program history to win a winter track group championship.
“In my 26 years of coaching at this school I’ve never had a better leader than Tom,” Seraphs coach Mike Tursi said. “The championship couldn’t have gone to a better kid and it couldn’t have come at a better time for our school.”
“We’ve been slammed a little bit recently with all this negativity, but if you want to put a true face on the Mater Dei community, it’s Tom Mongeau. He truly symbolizes what the school is all about.”
Mongeau raced to a title-winning time of 2:03.61, out-pacing Dwight-Englewood’s Ryan Semsel (2:05.63) and Montclair Kimberley’s Drew Crichlow (2:07.26) to capture the crown.
“That moment coming through the finish line, it was one of the best moments of my life,”Mongeau said. “It was just pure excitement. I’ve pictured this day and this win in my head since I was a freshman. All I wanted to do was win a state championship…To come here and get it done, it’s the greatest feeling of all time.”
Though Mongeau’s achievement may have focused the media’s lens on the individual, the Seraphs senior captain looked beyond himself, carrying the Mater Dei Prep community with him around the track and through the finish.
“This win means so much,” Monogeau said, “especially because of everything that’s going on with the school right now. We really needed something positive. I was running for my school and my community today.”
“The school, the faculty, my coaches, and the kids at Mater Dei, that’s my family,” Mongeau said. “I tried my best and got it done for them.”
Later in the meet Mongeau went on to compete as the anchor of the Mater Dei Prep 4×400 relay team, and alongside Jay Curti, Liam Petry, and Jake Roberts helped the group clinch a point with a sixth place finish at a time of 3:56.17.
Overall, Mater Dei Prep finished with 11 points and tied for seventh place with Gill St. Bernard’s.
Prior to his championship performance on Saturday, Mongeau ran a 2:05.03 at the Monmouth County Championships, before recording a 10:49.39 in the 3200 at the Shore Conference meet.
Mongeau will race again on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Meet of Champions.