Vikings undefeated in early going

Photo by Jim Hague/ The North Arlington girls’ track and field team is enjoying a solid start to the spring season, winning their first four dual meets. Back row, from left are Tiffany Matos, Eunice Gavieres, Mackenzie Cutruzzula, Kali Orovio and head coach Bernadette Fash. Front row, from left, are Cristina Nardini, Nicolette Zamora, Marta Brulinski and Tatiana Balugas.


By Jim Hague

North Arlington High School girls’ track and field coach Bernadette Fash has compiled some solid teams in the past, but nothing quite like the group Fash has this season.

The Vikings leaped out to a solid 4-0 start, including victories over Ridgefield, Becton Regional, Wallington and neighboring rival Lyndhurst.

“Lyndhurst was the biggest obstacle to overcome,” Fash said. “And we were able to win by just two points. They’ve been the biggest rival for the last couple of years. Winning that meet was a pretty good feather in our caps.”

What makes the Vikings’ performance more impressive is that they are basically a young squad. There are only three seniors on the entire roster and most of the athletes are underclassmen, so there is a lot of hope and promise for the future, not just this year.

“We have only 24 girls,” said Fash, who is also the school’s girls’ volleyball coach. “It’s a small group, but we do have quality. I honestly didn’t think we would have the numbers to pull it off, but we have a good group who are pulling together and competing in more than one event. Something just clicked with them and it’s working well.”

What has definitely helped is the versatility of the performers Fash has. The North Arlington girls are willing to try anything, entering in several events in order to score as many points as possible. That unselfish approach has been encouraging and it’s showing the complete diversity of the entire team.

Junior Mackenzie Cutruzzula is the team’s main sprinter, competing in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. Cutruzzula is also one of the more versatile members of the Vikings’ roster, also competing in the long jump and triple jump.

“Mackenzie hasn’t lost yet in the 100-meters,” Fash said. “She’s doing really well and has been scoring a lot of points.”

Freshman Sarah Palma has been handling the 400-meter runs.

“She’s been showing a lot of promise,” Fash said. “I look forward to coaching her over the next few years.”

Junior Nicolette Zamora is the Vikings’ 800-meter runner. “I’m looking to get a good year out of her,” Fash said.

Junior Tatiana Balugas has been working hard in the distance races, competing in both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs.

“She’s been holding her own in both races,” Fash said.

Fash is really high on her hurdlers. Sophomore Cristina Nardini has been competing in both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles.

“She’s been winning most of her races consistently,” Fash said. “She also does the long and triple jumps. It really helps that we have girls doing three and four events. Because we don’t have a big team, we need them to double up and do more events. It does take a lot of wear and tear, but it’s something we have to do.”

Senior Marta Brulinski is the Vikings’ main competitor in the pole vault. Brulinski has been improving with every passing meet and has been coming close to clearing the bar at nine feet.

Senior Eunice Gavieres is one of the team’s lone holdovers from last year. Gavieres threw the shot put last year and has returned this year as a much improved competitor.

Senior Tiffany Matos is the team’s top javelin thrower, while junior Mary Smykowski handles the discus.

Sophomore Kali Orovio, part of the Orovio family that has been a major part of North Arlington athletics for years, is the high jumper. Kali (pronounced KAY-LEE) is already clearing the bar at 4-10 with limited experience.

“I think they’re finally proving to themselves that they can do it,” Fash said. “It’s going to be tough for us for relays and bigger meets, because we don’t have the numbers. The same thing will take place in the counties. But right now, we have four wins and it’s been like they’ve already won a championship. They’re taking it more seriously, knowing they can be successful. They know what they can do.”

And without question, the future looks very bright for North Arlington girls’ track and field.

“They now go to meets knowing that they have a shot,” Fash said. “They’ve always worked hard, but now, there’s a sense of purpose. They see what they can accomplish and it’s led to so much success.”

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