Bronxville’s Track and Field Team Follow in the Footsteps of Enduring Legacy
When famed track and field coach Jim Mitchell started coaching at The Bronxville School in 1978, the sport was almost exclusively for boys. Within just a year, the first girls track and field team was formed at the school and, the following year, were already headed to the New York State Championships, an achievement that continues through today. Over 40 years ago, the bar was set high. Ever since, Bronxville’s track and field team and their coaches have continued to keep passing the baton generation after generation.
This year, the boys and girls indoor track and field teams each won the Section I Class C championships for the second year in a row under the tutelage of head coaches Brian Halling and Alex Barraco, along with a coaching staff of three who focus on individual skill sets. The stats for this season are astonishing. The team has broken seven out of the school's 37 records this season. Earlier this month at the Millrose Games (known in certain circles as the Super Bowl of indoor track and field) eight students received medals. Both teams won the League Championships and 29 of the student athletes were awarded the title of ‘All League’. The two teams placed second at the Westchester County Championship meet against all teams in the county, where the Bronxville athletes made up 12 of the top three finishes- including two individual first place scores and two relay first place scores. Their performance at the New York State Qualifier two weeks ago proved to be one of the best team performances in Section I history, resulting in 24 student-athletes officially qualifying for the New York State Championship. Next up for this dream team will be a trip to Boston for the New Balance Nationals competition on March 9-12. Bronxville has 24 athletes qualified to compete against the top athletes from all over the country.
This is Coach Halling’s fourth year with the team, and Coach Barraco’s first. Both are runners and ran in high school and college. The sport has played an important role in their lives, and they believe it teaches students valuable life lessons. “To be successful takes hard work- practicing, stretching, conditioning, and confidence in yourself and the team. It also takes courage, especially when just starting out. You can’t know your potential unless you try new things,” said Coach Halling. “We have an eighth grader, Eva Mihova, a first time triple jumper who placed first at the Section Championships after only having learned it this year,” added Coach Barraco. “Every student on this team worked hard to find their breakout specialty. That takes a willingness to try new things and hard work. As a result, we have a well-rounded team with an athlete in every single event,” she said.
Coaches Halling and Barraco implemented a new approach to practices this year by merging the girls and boys teams into one unit. It proved to be a welcomed shift. “The merging of the teams led to such a very close team and I feel that it only made us stronger. We all were able to push each other to be better and support each other and it has led to incredible success this season. Practices were broken into smaller, more specialized groups for training, yet the team has never felt so tight knit before. Overall, the merging of the teams has done wonders for the program in my opinion and has made the season even more fun than in the past,” said Captain Hope Hershberg. “Being able to pool coaching staff and expertise that had previously been divided between two teams has been very positive. I hope that we will see more integration between the boys and girls in the years to come so that we end up with a true combined Bronxville track program,” said Captain Ian Gegenwarth.
The coaches are proud of not only the hard work and dedication these student athletes have demonstrated, but also the team culture that has been fostered, especially by Bronxville’s senior students. Danielle Dragoni (captain and indoor record holder in the 4x200 and 55m), Hope Hershberg (captain and member of the 4x800 relay), Katie O'Hare (captain and member of the 4x800 relay), Mai Ly Reinking (member of the 4x400 and school record holding 4x200 relay), Ellis Goodson (captain and top 12 in the state in the 1000m), Ian Gegenwarth (captain), Max Dicker (school record holder in the Pole Vault), Chris Lockwood (captain, school record holder in the weight throw, and state qualifier in the Shot Put), Pierce Patterson (boys record holding 4x200 and 4x400m relay member), and Jaime Valdes (boys record holding 4x200 and 4x400m relay member) are just some of the senior students who exemplify leadership and value the importance of passing down the honor, legacy, and deep tradition of the sport in the school. For many of these seniors, the end of season will be bittersweet. “Running for Bronxville has been an absolute pleasure across the years. As a kid I was inspired by the Rizzo brothers and I have been determined to break records of my own. It is sad that it is my final season, but I am excited for a new chapter in college and for our younger teammates to improve,” said Captain Ellis Goodson.
In a sport that relies so much on individual performance, these students are solidly a team. “The team dynamic is similar to a family. They really support and push each other to do their best through building trust, respect, and creating an unbreakable bond,” said Coach Halling. “Our team is so well run and organized by the coaches and a lot of our team’s success comes down to that. This collective has become so strong this past year and I think it all comes down to our improved work ethic and determination,” said Captain Ellis Goodson. “It has been incredibly rewarding to be on this team. Seeing the growth of all our individual athletes and seeing many athletes get really invested in the sport has been a validation of all the years that we seniors have invested into this team. It's really been an honor to work alongside the team,” added Captain Ian Gegenwarth.
Coach Halling has a signature saying he uses whether it’s at a big meet or a hard practice: “Here we go!” Honoring the past and striding towards the future has always been part of The Bronxville School fabric. “There is a storied history of track and field in The Bronxville School. The community has always shown a deep appreciation and respect for the sport,” said Coach Halling. “And with that comes a set of expectations. I, too, am aware of the legacy that has been handed down. Just like these Bronxville student-athletes, as coaches we will continue to rise to the occasion.”