It has been over one year since The College of New Jersey track and field team stepped on an outdoor track and took to competition. A year filled with straining workouts, tireless days in the weight room, and the perseverance to keep moving forward in a year with so many unknowns.
One thing known to this team is how hard they worked, and their fitness is ready to be shown at one of the team’s most valued meets of the year: The New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships.
TCNJ has long been recognized as one of the most dominant teams in the conference. In all three seasons overall, the men have won 65 conference titles, and the women have won 79. The women have been the reigning indoor track champions for the last three consecutive years, and men’s and women’s cross country have been the conference champions twice in the last three years.
While this season may have looked drastically different, the goal remains the same: bring home a winning title, for both the men and the women, and maintain their status as one of the strongest teams in the conference.
The team has had standout performances so far this season that is setting the stage for TCNJ to be the team to watch at the championships. The women’s 4×400 meter relay has run one of the top times in the nation this year.
On the men’s side, they had an exciting finish at Penn Relays in the sprint medley that allowed for them to take home first place for the first time in over a decade at the Relays. For both the men and women, many athletes are nationally ranked in their respective events.
The athletes on the team have shown up to practice, day in and day out, to ensure that they can perform their best when the time comes. Despite the several obstacles and uncertainties that have challenged normalcy, that has not paused the persistence and tenacity of these TCNJ lions.
Nicole Lester, junior track captain, jumper and school record holder in the pole vault, talks about how confident she is in the team, and that they never fail to get the job done when the time comes.
“I think our team has shown incredible perseverance and resilience throughout the entire season, even in the face of adversity,” she stated, remarking on the incredible challenges the team often has to overcome. “Normally we would have a whole year of practice and competition under us, so of course Covid compromised those months, but even without that, I still believe we can come home with another conference title.”
Some other athletes are experiencing mixed emotions. As exciting as this meet is not only this year, but every year for the team, it marks the end of the season for some, and provides a reflection for the performances that are now behind them.
Emily Hirsch, senior 400 hurdler and 800 meter runner, speaks through the overwhelming feelings she has looking forwards, and how lucky she is to have this opportunity her last semester on the team.
“I kind of have mixed emotions about conferences coming up since it’s my last conference meet ever, and potentially my last race ever,” she stated as this is a particularly emotional season for the seniors. “The majority of my feelings are definitely towards gratitude, and being thankful that I get to compete again, that I’m healthy, and that I’m capable of being a student-athlete.”
Track and field is a tough mental sport that does not lie, and many struggle to come to terms with that. It is about who can look past the unpredictability of each day, the unprecedented past year, and still strive to perform their best at every opportunity that they have. The TCNJ track and field team looks to do just that.
The meet will take place on two separate occasions. The multi-events of the heptathlon and decathlon will take place on Wednesday, May 5 and Thursday, May 6 at TCNJ. The rest of the running and field events will be hosted by Ramapo College with the women competing on Saturday, May 8 and the men on Sunday, May 9.