Solid season for NA boys’ and girls’ track

Anna Lasek knew that her track and field career was rapidly coming to a close. The North Arlington High School senior is attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick in the fall, so her days on the track were limited to her days as a Viking.

“I thought I would like to end senior year with a record,” Lasek said. “During practice, we were hitting far marks and I said, ‘Let’s make some noise.’ I was figuring out in my head what we had to do.”

The same for Jordyn Nelson, who is headed to Georgian Court in the fall to play soccer. It was time for Nelson, who comes from a family of stellar Viking athletes over the years, to enjoy the last few days as a track and field competitor.

So as the Viking boy and girl participants moved toward the end of the outdoor track season, it was time to leave their mark.

Which they did.

Lasek won the gold medal in the discus at both the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Colonial & Meadowlands Division championships at Emerson Borough High School and the Jack Yockers Bergen County Championships at Hackensack High School.

At the NJIC meet, Lasek threw the discus a school-record 102 feet, seven inches and at the Bergen County meet, Lasek threw the discus 99 feet, nine inches. In the NJIC meet, Lasek’s distance was a good 20 feet ahead of the rest of the field.

“I didn’t realize I was breaking the school record,” Lasek said. “It’s crazy how that happened.”

Combined with teammates Ivana Ramirez and Amelia Kearney, Lasek set a new school record the discus relay.

Nelson was part of the three relay teams that broke school records. Nelson was part of the triple jump relay, the long jump relay and the sprint medley relay.

They most certainly have left their mark before the NJSIAA state sectional meets this weekend.

“I’m so proud of them,” head girls’ coach Jessica Barber said. “They are all so supportive of each other.”

“I’m so happy,” Nelson said. “I’ve wanted this for a long time.”

Nelson was one of the most productive performers at the county meet. She finished third in the long jump (15-9), third in the triple jump (32-4 ½) and fifth in the high jump (4-4).

The Vikings also received solid performances from a host of others. Brenna Sullivan was second in the 800-meter run at the county meet in 2:34.39, was seventh in the triple jump and ninth in the long jump.

Arancha Antunues handled the hurdles races well, finishing fourth in both the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles.

Also competing well were Ashleigh Chiang, who was eighth in the 200-meter run and 11th in the 100-meter dash, Alyssa Buccheri, who finished third in the pole vault, Camila Figueroa, who was 17th in the 200-meter run and Haley Rolon, who was 13th in the 400-meter run.

“They all did their part,” Barber said.

“Coach Barber did a great job of getting the team ready,” said North Arlington head boys’ track and field coach Joe Cioffi. “I am very proud of them. I’m very thankful to have her with our program.”

You see, Cioffi also girls’ volleyball, which had its season altered to this hybrid season from mid-February to April, which cut into the track and field season. So Barber was doing both track coaching jobs for the first few weeks of the season.

“I was going back and forth from volleyball to track,” Cioffi said. “Coach Barber helped keep the teams together. To see what some of these girls accomplished is truly remarkable.”

Cioffi also had some stellar moments during the boys’ track season, featuring some boys who competed gamely in more than one event.

One of the most surprising performances came from senior Aidan Hughes, who competed in crew for the last three springs, but decided to turn his focus toward track and field this year.

Hughes was sixth in the triple jump and 10th in the long jump at the county meet.

Another key contributor was Lukas Presti, who sixth in the 800-meter run in 2:11.64 and sixth in the 1,600-meter run in 5:03.68.

“Lukas was able to run excellent races,” Cioffi said.

Presti said that he wasn’t shocked with the way the Vikings performed.

“Honestly, I’m not surprised at all with our team’s success this year,” Presti said. “Everyone has been working really hard over the last few years, especially this year, to get where we are now. It doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Presti said that his shining moment this season came in the 1,600-meter run.

“I think my most successful moment was my performance in the mile (1,600-meter run),” Presti said.

This came after Presti contracted COVID-19 that set him back more than a month.

“After having COVID,  I didn’t think it was possible to even get close to my previous year’s times,” Presti said. “But after tons of training, I was able to beat my personal record by a whole 10 seconds and bring my mile time down to 4:59. My goal for this season was to get under five minutes in the mile and I didn’t think I could do it. And to do it so suddenly and with a huge jump in my time. After seeing such a big improvement, I’m really looking forward to the last few races and seeing what I can do.”

Arben Lolovic had a fine week, placing ninth in the 100-meter dash in 12:53 and 10th in the 200-meter run in 26.27. He was also seventh in the triple jump and eighth in the long jump, displaying immense versatility.

Krystian Paczka was ninth in the triple jump and 13th in the 100-meter dash. Lukasz Skora was 12th in the 200-meter run, Jason Caputo was 10th and Martin Ramos 11th in the 1,600-meter run.

And the Vikings’ 4×400-meter relay team finished an impressive third in 3:53.16.

“Over the last three weeks, we put up some good numbers,” Cioffi said. “I’m excited to see what the boys can do at the state sectionals.”

The North Jersey Group I state sectionals will take place at Ridge High School.

“We’re one of three NJIC teams who are going to take the ride,” Cioffi said. “It’s a great complex. I think it’s going to be great to see the other teams. We will have some boys qualify for the Groups (the Group I state championship meet in two weeks), but we’re not even looking that far.”

Other Viking performers include talented junior thrower Dylan McDermott (no, not the actor) who finished third in the shot put and ninth in the javelin.

“He was a sprinter who ran the 400 (meter run),” Cioffi said of McDermott. “He devoted his focus to work on his craft for throwing the shot.”

Nicolas Rodriguez was another solid thrower, finishing fifth in the discus and seventh in the shot put.

So while the Vikings might have surprised some with their recent outings, their coach isn’t one of them.

“I think we’re right on point,” Cioffi said. “We just need to take that final stride.”

It’s coming, Coach. It’s coming.




The North Arlington girls’ track and field team has enjoyed some bright moments of late. From left are Ashleigh Chiang, Anna Lasek, Jordyn Nelson and Brenna Sullivan, with head coach Jessica Barber (far right). Photo by Jim Hague


The North Arlington boys’ track and field program has put together some impressive school records of late. From left are Aiden Hughes, Lukas Presti, Krystian Paczka and Arben Lolovic, with head coach Joe Cioffi (far right). Photo by Jim Hague









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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”