While Ben Samara had an eye on the spring as he coached the Princeton High boys’ winter track team, his athletes made the most of the indoor season.
“I think it was really good,” said PHS head coach Samara. “The main goal is to develop a good base for the spring and we did that. We also accomplished a lot of good things along the way.
Senior standout Tim Brennan solidified his status as one of the more accomplished throwers in the area, winning the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and then going on to place second at the state sectional and third at the state Group III championships.
“He went back and forth with the guy from North all season and he really got jacked up for the county meet,” said Samara of Brennan, who posted a personal best of 53‘11.75 in winning the county title.
“He is a gamer. He was training and lifting weights all through the winter so for him to throw like that was really impressive.”
Another impressive performer for the Little Tigers was senior runner Ian McIsaac, who finished second at the county meet in the 800 before taking third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800 at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet and then placing third in the 1,600 at the state Group III championships.
“It started at the Lavino Relays when he anchored our sprint relay and splitted a 1:58; I knew Ian was going to do some big things this season,” said Samara.
“He broke the school record in the 1,600 at successive meets. He has 4:25 at the sectional and 4:23 at the group meet. He trained through the season and has been doing his base training, he is gunning for PRs in both the 800 and 1,600 this spring. He is training hard.”
PHS also got some good contributions from junior Conor Donahue, sophomore Jacob Rist, and sophomore Joe Gray.
“For Conor Donahue to get sixth at the county meet in the 1,600, he came up with one of the best kicks I have ever seen,” asserted Samara.
“He showed so much heart; I am hoping he builds off of that this spring. Rist is really training hard; he is getting to where he wants to be. Another guy who had a great season was Joe Gray, who is a sophomore. His indoor best last year was 54 and his outdoor best was around 51. To run 52 on 200-meter tracks shows a lot of progress. He should get close to 50 seconds outdoors.”
Samara saw progress across the board from his athletes. “We have a lot of good young guys,” added Samara.
“Jeremy Cohen is a freshman and he was keeping up with all of the upperclassmen in their workouts. He has the kind of work ethic you like to see. We have two other guys, Alex Henry, a sophomore, and Noah Chen, a freshman, who came in on the distance side. They were
running 5:10 in the 1,600 at the beginning of the season and they were down to 5:00 by the end. It shows what hard work can do.”
In the final analysis, Samara is more focused on developing work ethic than winning medals.
“It’s not about blowing people away at the county meet; it is about developing guys and their character and hoping that they will get something out of the experience besides wins and losses,” said Samara.
“If you are doing winter track, it is because you want to be there. It isn’t easy training outside in the cold like we do.”