Lack of a proper training facility, having to improvise with road and fitness center treadmill workouts, death of the parent of a key teammate and some tough late-season injuries did not derail the Scarsdale track and field team this winter. While it may have slowed the girls team down quite a bit, the boys were able to represent the team well down the stretch all the way to New Balance Nationals.
Sophia Franco got off to a strong start for the girls, setting school records in the 400- and 600-meter runs and Brooke Bensche was on her way to another state meet before injuries prior to state qualifiers took both stars out of play. All the while, the boy sprinters were building towards records of their own, led by Nico Bernard’s records is the 600- and 1,000-meter runs and records in two relays, the 4x400-meter and 4x800.
“A lot happened with the boys towards the end of the season and I feel bad because the girls had just as much potential, but they had a couple of things happen during the season that made it difficult to perform at times,” coach Vinny Modafferi said. “It was a bit of a bumpy road, but the girls worked hard and kept the guys accountable at every workout. Everybody had an accomplishment — some of them weren’t on the national level.”
After Bernard and Jacobson went 1-2 in the state qualifier in the 600-meter and the 4x800-meter took first place, Bernard and the relay both took second at the New York State championships.
At the Armory last weekend, however, the two relay teams made their mark by lowering their times.
The 4x800 dropped about seven seconds down to a Westchester County record 7:49.43, which broke a1975 New Rochelle mark of 7:52.3, and placed seventh in the nation. The team was finally running the relay on fresh legs, as only Bernard had competed in an event the day before — he took 12th in the 400-meter — and no one competed that day individually.
In addition, Modafferi made an adjustment to the running order, the second such adjustment this season. He switched the second and third legs, putting D.J. Matusz second, Eric Jacobson third, leaving Ward Bandsma as the lead and Bernard as the anchor.
“D.J. hasn’t been racing as long as Eric, so I always try to keep those guys around the competition for as long as possible,” Modafferi said. “I put D.J. second so he would be around five or six guys and I wanted to have Nico and Eric be our stallions that had an open track and let them run fast. We just played towards everybody’s strengths.”
Everyone dropped time, none more than Bernard, who went down to a blazing 1:53.9 leg.
“I think we knew we could run that fast, but we were trying to do a lot throughout the season,” Modafferi said. “Everything was set up with training earlier on and they weren’t necessarily going to run fast. Once we started dropping our mileage and running more speed workouts, that’s what you’re looking for to run fast at the end of the season. You can’t run that fast the whole season or you’ll get hurt.”
Modafferi called the relay’s success “a couple of years in the making.” Bernard came through the system from the novice group, while Jacobson and Matusz came from other sports — basketball and ice hockey, respectively — and Bandsma came down from the distance group to tackle a new challenge.
“It all came together at the right time and the guys worked hard for the two and half years,” Modafferi said.
For the 4x400 the next day, the Raiders placed 14th, with Jonah Oxman serving as the lead as he had done all season alongside Jacobson, Matusz and Bernard. Earlier in the season the group placed second at the Millrose Games.
“I don’t know if any 4x4 from Scarsdale ran at Millrose, let alone placed that high,” Modafferi said.
Coming off the high of the 4x8, the success of the 4x4 team in a new school record 3:24.18 was “kind of like the cherry on top,” according to Modafferi.
“Jonah led off and ran as strong as he could, but he had missed a week of practice,” Modafferi said. “He wasn’t in tip-top shape, but he stepped up in the race and allowed Eric to break 50 for the first time. D.J. ran a strong race as always. Nico was lights out and turned on the motors.”
Emerging Elite 400-meter: 1) Willie Johnson (East St. Louis, IL) 48.39; 12) Nico Bernard (Scarsdale) 50.16.
Championship 4x800-meter: 1) The Jungle TC-VA) 7:40.49; 7) Ward Bandsma (2:01.016), D.J. Matusz (1:58.391), Eric Jacobson (1:56.114, Bernard (1:53.901) 7:49.43.
Championship 4x400-meter: 1) St. Benedict’s Prep TC-NJ) 3:18.36; 14) Jonah Oxman (53.85), Jacobson (49.928), Matusz (52.038), Bernard (48.372) 3:24.18.
Note: Scarsdale set school records in both relays and in the 4x800 set a new Westchester County record.
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