Stuart Track Needs New Faces to Excel As It Chases 4th Straight Prep B Title
By Bill Alden
They are words that provide daily inspiration to Stuart Country Day School track Tom Harrington.
By his bedside is the "serenity prayer" which calls for one to accept the things that he can't change, to have the courage to change the things he can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.
Harrington is going to have to apply those words on a daily basis as he guides his young team this spring.
Having won three straight state Prep B titles, Stuart lost to graduation the heart of its team in Brittany Jones, Maya Thompson, Megan Keese, Sophie Medina, and the coach's daughter, Angela Harrington.
That quintet of athletes accounted for 72 of the 144 points the Tartans piled up as they breezed to victory last spring in the Prep B championship meet.
"I've got to accept the fact that I don't have the people who graduated, the ones who didn't come out, and that I don't have a track,' said Harrington, whose team was able to get in some track work recently at Nottingham High while that school was on spring break.
"What I can control is how I develop and train the kids that I do have. I'm going to have to do my very, very best coaching job this season. There is a lot of teaching to do this year."
One group that won't require a lot of teaching, however, is Stuart's stable of middle distance runners which includes seniors Emily Driscoll, Catherine Currie, Saskia Van Niewenhuyse, and Caroline Cancelosi, together with junior Laura Brienza, sophomore Elizabeth Cancelosi, and freshman Nicole Huber.
In the 2004 prep B meet, Driscoll took first in the 3200 and second in the 1600 while Currie placed fourth in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200. Brienza was second in the 1,600 while Van Niewenhuyse took sixth in the 3200.
"The runners are fine," said Harrington. "Driscoll was running 800s in near-school record time at workouts so I had her back off."
The coach acknowledges, though, that his distance runners don't provide the emotional jolt the team got from its seniors last spring.
"The distance runners are reserved, you don't know what they are thinking," said Harrington with a chuckle. "Angela and Maya were in people's faces. I'm still trying to get a read on the personality of this group."
Harrington is looking for a spark from juniors Hannah Wilson and Brittany Kidd, who excel in the hurdles as well as the jumping events. In last year's Prep B meet, Wilson was second in the 400 hurdles and tied with Kidd for second in the high jump.
"Hannah and Brittany are looking really good," said Harrington, who will also use junior Sasha Levitt at hurdles in addition to giving the Cancelosi sisters and Van Niewenhuyse a shot at the 400 hurdles. "I'm expecting a lot out of them."
Stuart has several talented athletes vying for a shot at the sprinting events including seniors Sofie Heyman and Maria Naskalov and freshmen Alaina Gaines, Carys Johnson and Harrington's younger daughter, Janae Harrington.
"Maria and Sofie came back in such great shape, I was shocked," said Harrington, who will also give seniors Veronica Thambia and Mary Kate Goldberg and junior Claire Henderson a shot in the sprints.
"I told the seniors that they have been in the background and now it's time to step up. Janae and Carys are our fastest sprinters right now."
The biggest challenge facing the Tartans is replacing Thompson, the team's one-woman gang in the throwing events. In the Prep B meet last year, Thompson placed first in the javelin, second in the shot put, and third in the discus.
Harrington will have a lot of candidates to choose from in the throwing events including juniors Tatiana Person, Sophia Clark, and Nora Gecan, together with sophomores Sarah Goodwin and Taj Pannell and freshmen Vicky Churchwell and Jacqui Yost.
"I'm hoping Sarah is Maya's heir-apparent," said Harrington. "Taj is also looking good." Patience will be the watchword as Harrington and assistant coach Robert Abdullah work to mold all of their untested athletes.
"I could rush them along to get them ready for the big meets," said Harrington, whose team is scheduled to compete in the Prep Relays on April 6 at Lawrenceville. "But I'd rather develop the younger kids slower so that I will have them over the long haul."
Harrington is confident of the team's short-term prospects this spring. "If the young kids develop at the right pace, we should be a team to be reckoned with," asserted Harrington.
Depending on how fast his young athletes come along, Harrington could end the spring with the serenity of another title.