Breakthrough season for Vikings track team

Photo by Jim Hague./ The North Arlington boys’ track and field team has opened eyes this spring, especially after a solid second place finish at the NJIC Meadowlands A Division championships last week. Posing, from l., are: assistant coach John Zukatus, Travis Orovio, Michael Clifford, Tyler Krychkowski, Jon Gonzalez and head coach Joe Cioffi.


By Jim Hague

When Joe Cioffi took over as the head boys’ track and field coach at North Arlington High School last year, he knew he wasn’t exactly inheriting a dominant program.

“I had been told that by a bunch of people,” Cioffi said. “Any time you get hired into a new program, it’s a challenge. When I met the kids, they all decided that they wanted to step it up, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a rebuilding process. After speaking with them for the first time, I knew what they wanted to do and I was encouraged.”

The Vikings experienced some growing pains last year, but when the 2012 spring season was set to begin, Cioffi knew that he had a lot of promise

“We have some seniors who were determined to put the program back on the map,” Cioffi said.

“At the beginning of the season, I felt pretty good about our chances.”

The team competed at the Kearny Relays to start the season.

“We corrected some mistakes after that and showed a lot of improvement,” Cioffi said.

Cioffi felt even more encouraged when the Vikings headed to the Richie Pezzolla Memorial Lyndhurst Relays and finished among the top 10 teams in a highly competitive field.

“We won a bunch of medals and we broke some school records,” Cioffi said. “We did very well.”

The Vikings then finished first at the Twin Boro Relays at Ramsey and took second place at the County Seat Invitational, showing more depth and versatility.

The Vikings won four out of six dual meets, then finished second to Lyndhurst last week at the New Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Meadowlands Division championships.

It’s definitely the best finish that the Vikings have had in track and field in quite some time.

“I’m really proud of them,” said Cioffi, who has received great assistance from assistant coach John Zukatus. “I’m amazed by their work ethic and the kids should be proud of their accomplishments.”

Cioffi has a host of athletes who compete in multiple events, a must when fielding a track team from a smaller Group I school like North Arlington. But the diversity of the athletes has been astounding.

“We need to have them compete in more than one event,” Cioffi said. “A lot of them compete in four. It’s what we have to do.”

Senior Travis Orovio, one of the team’s captains, is a staple in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Danny Vasquez and sophomore Ty Scott have also competed in the dashes, but Orovio has enjoyed the most success.

“Orovio has been the most consistent runner we’ve had in every league meet,” Cioffi said. “He’s our top guy.”

Orovio finished fifth in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the NJIC-Meadowlands meet last Tuesday.

Senior captain Jon Gonzalez has been handling the 400-meter dash. Jonathan Bueno has been chipping in there as well.

The 800-meter run is being contested by sophomore Danny Cordero and freshman Colin Clifford.

In the 1,600-meter run, Cordero and freshman Ryan Duffy have been steady. Cordero finished third in the 1,600-meter run at the NJIC-Meadowlands meet last Tuesday in 4:53.3.

Duffy has been running the 3,200-meter races as well.

“Since he’s a freshman, it’s been a little tough on him, but he’s holding his own,” Cioffi said.

The 110-meter high hurdles have been run by Nick Awad, Matt Smitkowski and Nick Quiroz.

Senior Tyler Krychkowski, the versatile athlete who starred on both the soccer fields and basketball courts for the Vikings, is the team’s best 400-meter intermediate hurdler. Krychkowski finished third and Gonzalez fourth in the 400 hurdles last Tuesday.

Krychkowski also set a new school record for the triple jump with a leap of 42-9 – good for first place at the meet.

“He’s a great kid, but I’m amazed at the level of competition he consistently competes at,” Cioffi said. “He’s very intense and has become very good at the sport. He’s really been unbelievable.”

The high jump duties are being shared by Orovio, senior Jordan Henriques and senior Robert Marrero, the standout soccer goalkeeper who came out for track for the first time this spring. Orovio was second, Henriques fourth and Marrero sixth at the NJIC-Meadowlands meet.

Krychkowski (second), Marrero (third) and Henriques (fifth) all medaled in the long jump. Orovio (fourth), senior Michael Clifford (fi fth) and freshman Travis Fisher (sixth) all received medals in the pole vault.

Orovio’s versatility is outstanding, medaling in four different and diverse events.

Marrero, Gonzalez and James Awad compete in the javelin, with Gonzalez and Marrero finishing 1-2 in the event.

Henriques won the gold medal in the discus, where Awad and football standout Jesse Groome, another firstyear track performer, also compete.

Awad, Groome and senior Tre Cain are all shot putters. Groome fi nished fi fth at the league championships.

Needless to say, it’s been a ground-breaking season for the Vikings, one that Cioffi saw coming. Now, it’s up to the younger members of the program to keep the winning ways going.

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