By Jimmy Allinder
Except for the unusual early-season warm weather, winter track is usually reserved for hardy souls who don’t mind competing with snow on the ground.
However, Spotswood High School’s head coach of the boys and girls teams, Roland D’Orvilliers, dismisses icy temperatures as an excuse and expects his runners to give nothing but their very best.
“There’s a quote from Steve Scott, coach of [University of California, Santa Monica],” D’Orvilliers said. “He says, ‘It’s my job to get [them] to have passion for [running] the sport. I want them to enjoy it; I want them to challenge themselves; to search for the very best in themselves.’ ”
In other words, D’Orvilliers believes winter track can be as valuable a teaching tool as the lessons students learn in the classroom, which is why the veteran coach has such a love for the sport. Little wonder athletes such as senior Katie Wasserman have flourished under D’Orvilliers by placing 11th in last spring’s NJSIAA Outdoor Track and Field Meet of Champions 1,600-meter run. Wasserman hopes to run track at Columbia University — her college choice.
Another top distance runner is senior Ally Coghlan who placed 22nd in the Meet of Champions 1,600-meter race last spring.
The focus of winter track is relay racing, and Spotswood has one of the best relay teams the school has ever produced. Wasserman anchors the 4×400-meter team that set the indoor school record of 4:28.19 at the Middlesex County Relays Jan. 9. The team also includes Michaela Robinson, Angel Ebube and Cassy Raia — an up-and-coming runner who has started to receive recruiting letters from colleges.
On the boys side, Jake Ryan set a school record in the indoor 200-meter run at the Colts Neck and Friends Invitational earlier this month.
While D’Orvilliers believes winning meets is important, he places equal value in utilizing the winter season for preparing athletes for the spring season.
“Training goals can be adjusted according to an athlete’s physical condition and ability,” he said. “The newer ones especially need training, but those who participated in cross-country or other fall sports are capable of enduring more taxing regiments.
“Winter track is a sport where athletes’ training programs begin by determining their limits, establishing starting points and using the season to achieve a level of success that’s defined by their physical limits.”
Upcoming winter group meets on the schedule included the Greater Middlesex Conference Championships Jan. 20 and the state Group 1 sectional meet Feb. 12.