The 2018 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School 2018 track team faces a bunch of changes, some good, some challenging.
For one thing, they will compete at home this year for the first time in three years. For another, there will be a lot of new faces to replace the successful and senior-laden squad last year. “For example, we graduated eight of the 12 girls on the 2017 team that went 5-1 last year, so we have work to do,” longtime Coach Joe Schroeder said this week.
“Having our resurfaced track back is huge. It was tough having to go off-Island for all our meets last year, but senior leadership got us through, and the younger kids learned from that dedication,” he said. The program has attracted somewhat larger numbers, with 15 girls and 25 boys in the starting blocks.
Team captains are senior Rose Engler and juniors Mackenzie Condon and Nate Packer; all are successful in track and as school citizens and leaders. “They are all respected, and have taken leadership roles at the high school,” Mr. Schroeder said.
The Vineyarders begin their final season in the Eastern Athletic Conference, a high-quality state conference that features Bishop Feehan’s 240-member team. “I like competing against Feehan. If you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best,” Schroeder said. The team will begin play in the refurbished Cape and Islands League in 2019.
So the Smiths, Vercruysses, Schroeders, Fosters, and DeBettencourts have moved on, and somehow — maybe 31 years of Schroeder’s coaching experience has something to do with it — new stars emerge for this Little Track Team That Could.
Given his numbers, Schroeder will mix and match his kids and events for the best outcomes, maybe not competing in one event to keep kids fresh for their specialty events.
What he knows is that emerging phenoms like freshman Amber Cuthbert and sophomores Catherine Cherry and Peter Burke will run the distance events, that Condon will jump hurdles, and that big man Nate Packer will throw the discus and put the shot.
He also has Dash Christy and Jo-Jo Bonneau joining the spring squad after stellar indoor seasons with Top 10 finishes in state competition, and a host of newbies who are learning a new sport.
“We have some great athletes who are multievent competitors. Mackenzie will run hurdles, but she’s a true multievent competitor, including pentathlon and decathlon, and Rose Engler will run distances between 800 [meters] and the two-mile, and maybe some relays.
“Peter Burke is new to outdoor track. He’ll run the mile, but, like Rose, he’s versatile and can run the 800, possibly the 2-miler. Jo-Jo Bonneau will be a key guy in boys hurdles,” he said.
And so it goes with this small group of Vineyarders who reach deep and become high achievers at the regional and state level. The team opens its season April 3 in a dual meet at Middleboro high school, then — are you ready? — have five season meets at home sweet home.