The Buena Regional High School boys track and field team wants to shake things up this season.
The Chiefs have been a solid program in recent years but haven’t been able to make the transition from contenders to champions.
Despite a 34-10 dual-meet record spanning the past five seasons, Buena has no Cape-Atlantic League National Conference titles to show for it. No sectional or state championships, either.
The Chiefs hope to change that this spring.
Buena features a deep, talented roster that plans to contend for the title in a stacked CAL National Conference. The Chiefs also have their sights set on the South Jersey and state Group II title mix.
“We have a lot of talent — a lot of seniors and upperclassmen that are seasoned veterans at this point,” Chiefs coach Greg Gruver said.
Buena has enjoyed steady success in recent years but hasn’t be able to seize control in a National Conference that has been dominated by Bridgeton and Pleasantville. While the Bulldogs and Greyhounds have been at the top of the pack, the Chiefs were never far behind, always hovering between second and fourth place.
The conference race is a bit more open this year. Cedar Creek also features a senior-laden team that has honed its skills since its inaugural varsity season in 2011.
“It’s a tough season to get into,” Gruver said. “The Cape-Atlantic League gives us tough opponents for every sport, really.”
The Chiefs are confident in their chances. Buena opens its dual-meet season with a 4 p.m. contest against Bridgeton on April 10.
“I believe that we can win it all,” junior sprinter Anthony Forrest said.
Gruver struggled to narrow a list of athletes he believes will make an impact — not the worst ordeal a coach could face.
Among those to watch are veterans Forrest, Rayshawn Scott (senior, jumps), Kaeshan Deal (senior, jumps/sprints), Darryl Guilford (senior, throws), Mike Busby (senior, throws), Nate Niederhofer (senior, hurdles), Josue Guadarrama (senior, middle distance) and Julio Martinez (junior, distance). Senior Mike Torres, a hurdler, decided to switch to outdoor track from baseball after having a successful indoor track season. Gruver called freshman sprinter Quadir Albright one of the fastest athletes on the track.
This group hopes to establish a winning tradition for the school in the sport. Buena is better known for the success of its girls track and field team.
“We have good coaches that dedicate a lot of hard work and time to keep the kids involved,” Gruver said. “Hopefully, their work ethic and the tradition the (girls team) has built over the last six years or so wears off on the boys.”
Buena gets some of its best postseason preparation from within its own conference.
Having to face Bridgeton and Cedar Creek — both strong Group II programs — and Pleasantville, which won the indoor state Group I title in February, the Chiefs surely will be battle-tested when county, league and sectional meets begin in May.
“There’s always a good runner that gives us a challenge and pushes us,” Forrest said.
A competitive regular season should give Buena’s athletes a quick assessment of where they need to be to do well in the sectional and state meets. If they perform to their potential, the Chiefs could bring home at least one and maybe multiple championships.
More importantly, they’ll make a name for themselves in an already highly regarded Cape-Atlantic League.
“I think we’re on our way to being a good team every year. We just have to keep training hard every practice and reach the goals that are set for us,” Forrest said.
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