For the about 120 kids on the Mahwah Rec track team, Ramsey High School’s expanding lacrosse program poses a significant challenge.
“We were already practicing in Ramsey because the Mahwah High School track was being used by lacrosse players,” track commisioner Pete Cassotis explained. “Now Ramsey’s program is building up, and if not this year, by next year they will have full JV and Varsity teams.”
The lack of a track could potentially put the Mahwah rec track program, which Cassotis says has been in place for 23 years, at risk. However, the commissioner said he is working on several different options to “make this season work.”
According to Cassotis, he is currently trying to work out a schedule with Ramsey High School to use that track, and has begun a discussion with Ramapo College about possibly using its track. Despite the uncertain meeting place, Cassotis said the program’s registration period will begin this weekend, as planned.
“It is my job to make sure that there is a program, and that is what I’m going to do,” he said. “We will find a place, and a way to make sure we have another great season.” He said parents and participants, both new and returning, can count on a solution to the problem.
However, Cassotis does admit what the track program really needs is “a permanent home. That is really what we are looking for, and what the kids deserve.” To build a track facility in the township that would house everything the team would need to practice events in five categories – sprinting, long distance running, jumping, throwing, and race walking – would be too expensive to construct, he said, so the best solution is to find an available space.
For Cassotis, who has coached the team since 1999 and took over as commissioner in 2005, the main beneficiaries of finding a permanent practice space would be the kids on the team. “I measure success by whether or not a kid learned something, had fun, and comes back next year,” he said. “We’ve had success with that in the past, and we want it to continue.
By any measure, the team has been a successful one. Competing in the NJ Striders division, last year was the first that the team had members competing in all five categories go to the national competition in Wichita, Kansas.
“I really like going fast,” eight-year-old Eliza Hoover, who competed at nationals last year, said.
“They learn decision making skills, commitment, fitness routines, and they have a great time,” Don Hoover, Eliza’s dad, said. “Plus, nationals was a really great experience for [my daughter]."
Parents and organizers have expressed an appreciation for the rec program, and a hope that it continues. “It’s a program that teaches a sport the kids can take with them for the rest of their lives,” Jeff Morris, another team parent, said. “It would really be a shame to lose it.”
Practices, which are held two evenings a week, are set to begin at the end of March, with the first meet slotted for April 15. Until then, Cassotis said he is open to resident suggestions, in addition to those he is working on securing, as to where the team’s permanent home could be.