NA’s Modhagala arrives in time to help Viking track team

For the first two years of his high school life, Sirish Modhagala attended Paramus Catholic High School.

But Modhagala didn’t find the school to his liking. So Modhagala decided to transfer back to hs home district and attend North Arlington High School.

“I wanted to come back to North Arlington and go to school with the kids I grew up with,” said Modhagala.”I went to middle school here and knew all of the guys.”

He also wanted to compete on the NA track and field team.

But because he was on the PC track team, Modhagala had to sit the 30-day transfer rule that has been instituted by the NJSIAA, the state’s governing body.

Sitting the 30 days was extremely frustrating,” Modhagala said. “It was hard watching my new team competing in meets that I thought I could have an impact on. I thought I could fit in with my new team right away, but it was tough not being able to help right away.”

So when the outdoor track and field season began in April, Modhagala was on the sidelines, much like he was at the beginning of both the cross country and indoor track campaigns.

“When I learned it was all three seasons, I said, ‘Are you serious?’” Modhagala said. “I wondered if I could appeal it. It meant I had to sit out the indoor league meet.”

But when the outdoor NJIC-Meadowlands Division championships were held last week at Emerson Borough High School, Modhagala was there, in uniform, ready to compete and perhaps win some events.

“From the minute I stepped onto the track, I knew what I wanted to do,” Modhagala said. “I wanted to put North Arlington’s name on the map on the total track scene. Running three events is pretty hard to run, but I knew I could do it.”

North Arlington track and field head coach Joe Cioffi also knew that Modhagala was poised to perform at a high level.

“He was really pushing to get out there,” Cioffi said. “Instead of just sitting around and doing nothing, he would run on his own time on his conditioning to make sure he was at the top of his game. He was also doing a good job coaching our distance runners. But we were very excited when he came back to us. He did a great job for Paramus Catholic, but we knew he could be something special for us.”

Cioffi entered Modhagala in four events _ the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs, plus the 4×400-meter relay.

“I know it’s a unique thing to have someone run those three races,” Cioffi said.

It’s even more of a special event when your runner manages to win all three.

Modhagala won the 800-meter run over Jonathon Barrios of Becton Regional in 2:10.14 by just five one-hundredths of a second. He then captured the 1,600-meter run in 4:47.63, besting Joe Terreri of Hasbrouck Heights by three seconds and finished the triple by winning the 3,200-meter run in 11:02.44, by a full second over Ryan Mernin of Hasbrouck Heights.

Modhagala was also part of the Vikings’ 4×400-meter relay team that finished fourth. It was quite a busy weekend and quite a memorable weekend for the North Arlington High junior.

And for his efforts, Modhagala has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

“If we had this conversation before the season began, I thought you were crazy,” Cioffi said. “There was what he could do and what we expected him to do. But he wanted to be the best in all three. I told him it was doable, but I told him what needed to be done.”

Cioffi told Modhagala to have a simple strategy.

“He needed to run his race,” Cioffi said. “He didn’t have to worry about the competition and what they were doing. He had to make sure that he stayed strong with his splits and not worry about everyone else. I was very impressed. As a coach, I never thought I’d see a kid win three events. To have the ability to do that and run the relay is unreal. It shows the work he puts in.”

Modhagala thought he had a chance to pull off the remarkable triple.

“I had been looking at MileSplit (the premier website for track and field results and times) and I knew I had a spot towards the top in all three events,” Modhagala said. “I didn’t know if I would be able to pull it off. But it’s a very nice feeling. It’s nice to know that I’m a three-time conference champion. Not many can say that. And I don’t know when it’s ever going to stop.”

Modhagala is now pointing toward this weekend’s Bergen County championships.

“I know it’s going to be difficult to try to duplicate this,” Modhagala said. “But things are going well now. I just hope it gets better.”

“He’s a great kid to be around,” Cioffi said. “He laughs and jokes with everyone. But when the gun goes off, he puts his attitude and smile away. He’s able to switch gears and be serious.”

As serious as a three-time league champion can be.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer