Cross country and track veterans head different ways after memorable high school career

by Ben Habler and Aarav Kochar

High school sports are very moving and create timeless moments to reflect on throughout an athlete’s life. This is the case with the senior athletes of the Glen Rock Track and Field/Cross Country Teams. With the spring season just starting, this is the last for a handful of seniors, who only have two months until they graduate and are off to college.

In particular, the seniors on the Glen Rock XCTF team have had their fair share of ups and downs throughout the years. Through all that adversity, those moments have shaped them into the athletes that they are, always striving to go the extra mile and succeed.

Senior track captain Aidan Carroll, who is going to Stony Brook University to compete at the Division I level, has high expectations for this season. Carroll states, “My goal for the upcoming track season is to break a 4:20 mile time.”

Carroll’s fellow captain, Michael Taromina, nicknamed “MT,” also has high expectations for this season. Taromina is a hard working athlete, also a great leader. His goals for the track season include leading the team and encouraging others to do well, having a successful season for the team, and on a personal level, getting a personal record every meet.

Isabel Shea, the captain for the girls track team, shares similar goals to Taromina. She states, “I would like to PR (personal record) and make the most of my season.”

Running and being a part of the team has had a very profound impact on each of these three senior captains. It provided a much needed source of consistency, something many high schoolers need. Sports relieve stress which an athlete may face in school and growing up as a teenager in high school. The experience coming from playing sports is truly unmatched.

Shea reflected on how running has changed her life: “It gave me something to focus on and keep me on track, also gave me some of my best friends.” She plans on continuing to run past high school, either recreationally or club.

Taromina noted a similar effect: “It obviously made my life more busy, yet at the same time, I enjoyed the burden of having to go to practice everyday and run. I think it affected my life in a good way because it broadened my social life in terms of knowing my teammates, and was just a really good place to be after school and on the weekends.”

Carroll, when reflecting on running’s impact on his life, noted his coaches’ encouragement as a significant factor in the major positive effect of his running career: “It definitely made a huge impact on my life. And that wouldn’t have happened without Gallo, Weinberg, and J’s [his coaches] encouragement. It impacted where I will go to college, and helped me get into better schools that I wouldn’t have gotten into without running. It also taught me how to step up and be a leader.”

All three of these runners and senior leaders have had their struggles. Carroll had a stress fracture in his shin sophomore year, Shea was sick before some big meets, and all three had to deal with the effects of COVID-19 on their junior year seasons. They persevered through these conflicts and came out better senior year.

Despite these struggles, there have been even more successes. Throughout these past few years, the seniors made very memorable moments. For example, Carroll recalled his rise to the top as a junior in Cross Country. Carroll states, “Hands down best memory is winning Sectionals and getting my first school record junior year cross country. Paul Schwartz the Bergen Record writer described his season as a ‘long winless drought’ which I think summed it up perfectly. I came in 2nd every single race junior year leading up to sectionals, and I promised I was going to win when it mattered most. I ended up winning and breaking our school record, establishing myself as a breakout star since no one knew who I was before sectionals in November 2020.”

Another memorable moment that Taromina reflected on was Cross Country Coach Gallo’s breakfast. Taromina states, “I think it was such great team bonding experience that allowed us to know each other more and eat good fun. I’ll definitely miss that, along with going out to eat with the boys and coaches after meets.” Another aspect of the sport which can be taken is teamwork.

Shea’s most memorable moment involved a great display of teamwork and support. She recalls, “When one of my friends twisted her ankle before a race, we all stayed with her the whole meet until our coach had to carry her down to her car to take her to the hospital. The entire thing gave a big moment of support and defined being there for one another.”

With yet another successful track season ahead of us, it is the seniors’ final opportunity to represent Glen Rock in a bittersweet final ride. Although moving forward the seniors may be gone, their legacies definitely have not. Carroll, who will be competing at the D1 level at Stony Brook University next year, had some words for the upcoming leaders and underclassmen: “Listen to your coaches!! I cannot emphasize this enough, I say it just every day to underclassmen. Your coaches know what they are doing. Look at the top people on the team that inspire you. They wouldn’t have gotten to the place they are today without their coaches….Your coaches aren’t only there to tell you that you’re wrong and that less is more. They have experience, they see other people’s mistakes. And it’s up to you to trust them or not.” Both Taromina and Shea look to run club Cross Country during college, as both of their legacies won’t be forgotten. Especially when it comes to leading a team, Michael “MT” Taromina is that guy.

“Pain is temporary, victory is forever,” Taromina stated. “This sport isn’t going to be the easiest one to overcome all the pain and uncomfortableness, but in my opinion, it is the most rewarding sport that we have to offer, so I would advise upcoming juniors and underclassmen to look at the reward and maintain discipline when pushing yourself to reach your goal because you will get there – it just will not be easy.”