By Nick Curcuru
---- — The Gloucester boys and girls track teams came together before practice for a team warmup session.
It turns out that is now the norm for the Gloucester track program, as the program has merged into one co-ed team. Sure the boys side and the girls side will be competing separately in Northeastern Conference play this winter. Jeff Destino and Liz Moran are also officially the head coaches of the boys and girls teams respectively.
The practice regimen, however, has been overhauled. Instead of the teams splitting up into boys and girls, the teams are split up by event. Moran and assistant coach Joe Brancaleone will be coaching the distance runners, Destino handles the sprinters while Packy Fusco handles the throwers. Volunteer coach David Brooks is also helping out with the hurdlers and high jumpers.
Before practice begins both the boys and girls, who have a combined between 55-60 participants this winter, will gather for a warmup run and stretches. After that the athletes will break up into event, distance, sprint and throwing, and at the end of practice everyone meets up again for a cool down run and a team stretching session.
“It’s been good for everybody,” Moran said. “As coaches we can coach to our strengths and the kids get more attention with the way our practices are ran. It’s definitely more specialized and I think it’s worked for everyone and the kids are excited about it and have enjoyed it over the first couple weeks of practice.”
Destino has also enjoyed the new format and primarily coaching sprinters, he also praised the work of all the coaches and athletes for being on the same page.
“This is going to help both the boys and girls programs,” Destino said. “We warmup together, we practice together, we may race separate races but we will go into meets together as a team.
Everyone has been on the same page with similar goals and philosophies which has made the transition smooth. It’s a change but the kids get to work with the best coach for their event, it benefits everyone.”
On the track, both the Gloucester boys and girls enter the winter season with optimism as talent is at a premium for both teams, each competing in the Northeastern Conference Small this winter.
The boys are led by tri captains Mark Horgan (sprinter), Matt Carpenter (middle distance) and Jacob Holscher (distance). Horgan and Carpenter produced for Gloucester last winter while Holscher was voted a captain despite the fact that he has not ran track over his first three years of high school.
Holscher, however, comes into the winter season fresh off a strong cross country season and his leadership skills were evident from the get go.
“This is his first time running track but he stepped right up as a team leader,” Destino said of Holscher. “He told me on the first day of practice that he was going to be a leader the way he was during cross country season and that he would still be a leader without being a captain. I left it up to the team to vote for captains and those three guys got the votes from their teammates. They’re all great leaders and we are expecting a lot out of them.”
A pair of juniors also look to have big seasons this winter in hurdler Josh Rudolph, who also runs the 4x400 relay, and high jumper Mike Sheehan.
Sheehan qualified for the All State meet last season and has cleared 6-feet.
Destino also praised the work of Freshmen Tyler Meunsaveng and Tyler Figurido in the sprint events.
“We have some speed in the sprint end of things which should be nice,” Destino said. “We are looking to make some noise in the NEC.”
The Gloucester girls also look to have a strong team having graduated just one athlete from last winter.
Senior captains Bianca Giacalone and Elle Wierbicky, who were also captains last season, lead the team into the season. Both were Northeastern Conference All Stars last winter with Giacalone breaking the school record in the 300 at the NEC Meet in February.
Giacalone is one of the more feared sprinters in the conference while Wierbicky brings versatility that few high school runners have.
“Our captains are both great, they are great leaders and obviously great competitors,” Moran said. “The team follows their lead. We are looking pretty good this season only graduating one senior. I think we also have a one and a two in every event which is a plus.”
Junior distance runner Kacie Quinn, a cross country all star in the fall, and shot putter Liz McCormack should also bring a lot of points to the team this season. Moran penned McCormack as one of the best throwers in all of the NEC.
“We can compete with just about anybody this season,” Moran said. “Danvers will be our toughest meet, they are definitely the favorites but we will be right there.”
The teams officially open up on Wednesday, December 12 against Revere at the Benjamin A. Smith Fieldhouse, but on Saturday all the teams in the Northeastern Conference will meet in a relay jamboree. The event is designed to help the coaches, so they can see which runners can compete in which event best suits them.
“This helps us enter the season with a good idea of who can race where,” Moran said. “Placing runners in events is tough early in the season and this will be a huge help to all the coaches in the conference.”