There was a time in the 1960s and ’70s where the Snyder High School track and field program was one of the most respected and feared in the state of New Jersey. People like Dave Law went on to win three overall Meet of Champion indoor titles (1971 through 1973) in the 440-yard run and the Snyder mile relay team won the M of C title in 1971.
But then, there was a bit of a dry spell. Sure, individuals like Isidro Pimentel, who was the state indoor 1,600-meter champion in 1996 and sprinter Anthony Campbell, the current track coach at the school, brought some respectability back, but Snyder was never the real dominant force it once was three decades ago.
However, there is a group of four talented individuals that have formed a very formidable relay team. They’ve created a special bond that has carried them to new heights, helping to put Snyder’s track and field program back on the map.
The relay team of seniors Daryl Keese, Mauricio Mitchell and Jamonte Cooley, along with sensational sophomore Zamir Thomas, has emerged as one of the top relay teams in the entire country.
Earlier in the year, they captured two medals at the NJSIAA Group I Relays, setting the tone for the rest of the indoor season.
Last Tuesday, the group went to the prestigious 72nd Eastern States Invitational at the New York City Armory and finished second in the 800-meter (4-x-200) dash in a sizzling 1:30.23, just less than a half of a second behind champion Middle College of New York.
So it meant that the Tiger relay team posted the fastest time in the event in New Jersey and the fifth fastest time in the entire country.
For people like Keese, Mitchell and Cooley, earning success on the track makes up for the lack of success on the football field, where the Tigers have won only just three times during their career and losing 33 during that time.
“It hasn’t been easy,” said Keese, whose sister, Tellicia Williams, was a standout track performer at McNair Academic in recent years. “I think going through all that losing gave me the will to want to do more in track. I wanted to taste victory so much and I was going to do whatever I could to win. I’ve been running with Mauricio and Jamonte for two years and then when Zamir came along, that just pushed us over the top.”
Mitchell said that he was happy to see that the other relay members were as competitive as he was.
“This was my senior year and I wanted to go out with a bang,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to accomplish something. I can tell my kids I did something great in high school.”
Cooley likes the team aspect of the relay.
“Everything we do, we do as a team,” Cooley said. “We’re like a family. Everyone works hard and everyone picks each other up.”
Thomas has been a standout in his own right, winning both the 55-meter dash and the 400-meter run at the state sectionals a few weeks ago. He also won the 200-meter dash gold medal at the Eastern States, winning in 21.90. His star is on the rise.
“Having these guys run with me just makes me want to work harder,” Thomas said. “It’s a different feeling with the relay. It’s a family thing.”
The group wants to remain intact for the outdoor season and a run at the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival in Philadelphia in a few months.
“We want to bring a plaque back,” Mitchell said. “We want to be No. 1 overall.”
“The whole world is going to know about Snyder,” Cooley said.
If the team needs a substitute, then junior Brian Wade is on call.
“We’re like the ‘Fab Five,’” Cooley said.
It’s a shame that only four can run in a relay.
Keese is proud of the fact that there’s a sense of pride in Snyder once again.
“That’s more important than anything,” Keese said. “It feels good to be in the same category with some of the all-time greats. We’ve made a name for ourselves again.”…
The Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner will take place on Thursday, March 26 at the Casino in the Park in Jersey City and will feature this litany of excellent sports figures: boxing champ Emile Griffith; track standouts Al Adams, Thornton Smith and Tommy Downes; football and wrestling great Ted Klaube, baseball and football great Eddie Connors; Bill and Ken Frank, Jersey City natives and brothers who have won more than 1,000 games combined coaching baseball in Toms River; former North Bergen basketball coach John Barone; soccer great Connie Gallagher; coaching legend Paul Conway; former light heavyweight boxing contender Jimmy Dupree; former Major League Baseball pitcher Jeff Bittiger of Secaucus and the late Harry Massey of Jersey City.
Tickets for the dinner are priced at $65 and can be purchased by calling Beth Ruttler of the Hudson County Parks Department at (201) 915-1386. It should be a great evening…
Congrats to North Bergen native Greg Herenda, who as the head coach at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, led the River Hawks to a 21-7 record this season. Not bad for a program that was picked to finish ninth in the Northeast 10 this season…
Jersey City native Jim Spanarkel, who was an All-America basketball standout at Duke University in the late 1970s, has been selected as a basketball legend by the Atlantic Coast Conference. Spanarkel, now one of the most respected basketball analysts on television, will receive his award at the upcoming ACC tourney…
COMBATT, which helps young inner-city kids gain education benefits through boxing, will honor Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Recreation Director Joe Macchi at its annual dinner April 7 at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark.
Some of the other honorees that night include boxing legends Mark Breland, Vladimir Klitschko, Sugar Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Michael Spinks and Bobby Czyz.
For ticket information, contact the COMBATT office at (973) 642-3000 or (973) 824-4900. – Jim Hague