HAWTHORNE – What it may lack in numbers Hawthorne more than makes up for with heaping helpings of heart and desire.The Bears have only 25 athletes in their program, with 12 of them on the girls side. But fueled by strong senior leadership and a dazzling array of underclass talent, Hawthorne‘s dearth of quantity has not impeded its high level of skilled quality multi-event performers.
Led by Kaitlin Salisbury in the sprints, Jenna Dyksen in the hurdles and jumps and Sherika Dyer in the throws, the Bears went 7-2 in the dual-meet season, placed second by only 3 1/2 points behind Eastern Christian in the NJIC Colonial Division championships and were fourth at the Passaic County championships. Hawthorne will get another test this weekend at the North 1, Group 1 championships at Randolph
“We have a saying, ‘All hands on deck,’ and we really believe and abide by that motto,” said coach Gus Schell. “Everyone needs to be available for races they may not be familiar with if we want to fill out all the events on the card. For example, we had someone eating a cheeseburger at the counties and I told her she would be in her first 4-x-400 90 minutes or so before the relay went off.”
The Bears have received steady leadership from seniors Renee Vitole (jumps), Jessica Chamberlin (throws), Brooke Morton (hurdles), Anna Dutko (pole vault/hurdles), Alyson LaSpisa (distance), Sydney Calkins (400/hurdles) and Zaina Atieh (distance).
“I really think the atmosphere here created by the team has been spectacular; I have never felt so accepted,” said Salisbury, a freshman who plays soccer in the fall and bowls in the winter. “It’s a small group but very close — more really like a family.”
Salisbury took gold in the 100 and silver in the 200 at the division championships and was third at the counties in the 100. Dyer, another freshman standout, was second in the shot put and third in the discus at the NJIC Colonial and earned silver in the shot at the Passaic championships.
“With us it’s all about the team,” Dyer said. “First, second, last and always.”
Schell (throws), head boys coach John LaForge (pole vault/hurdles) and assistants Jason Patula (distance) and Jason Lavorne (sprints/jumps) basically share the Bears’ instructional and motivational duties – with equally carved responsibilities for both the boys and girls teams.
Dyksen, who doubled in the Colonial meet by winning the 100 hurdles and the triple jump and was third at the county in both those events, is a true believer in the team philosophy promoted by her coaches.
“The sum of the parts here truly is greater than the separate individual pieces,” said the junior.
Dyksen will be part of a 4-x-800 quartet that also includes junior Paige Stroh, freshman Megan Stanczak and sophomore Taylor Conroy at the sectionals. That will be in addition to doing the triple jump, the 100 hurdles and the long jump or the 400 hurdles. Like the rest of the Bears, she shows what it means to be a team player.