Team is a very important concept for Tom McLaughlin.
The recent Egg Harbor Township High School graduate was close with his Eagles track and field teammates. He saw something very similar at Rider University.
McLaughlin, 18, will run track for NCAA Division I Rider on partial athletic and academic scholarships. One of the Cape-Atlantic League's top distance runners, he placed second at the South Jersey Group IV championships in the 1,600-meter run this spring in 4 minutes, 19.85 seconds.
"The guys are really close. I felt like that's how it was on my high school team, where the guys fought for each other and ran hard for each other," McLaughlin said.
The competitive spirit and sense of camaraderie made his time at Egg Harbor Township memorable. It also made him the optimal teammate.
"He is one of the toughest kids on our team, always running his best when the race was on the line for our team," EHT coach Ryan Smith said.
Rider, which is in Mercer County, wasn't McLaughlin's first choice. He played some soccer tournaments there a few years ago, and felt the campus was too small.
Then, Broncs head coach Bob Hamer reached out to him. McLaughlin went on a visit to the school and changed his mind once he met the coaches and athletes.
He decided on Rider over Lafayette College, Shenandoah University and UNC Asheville.
"The team looked like they were going to do some big things over the next couple of years," McLaughlin said.
The Broncs have fared well under Hamer, a third-year coach. Rider won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship in 2011 and was runner-up this spring.
McLaughlin looks forward to running with - and battling for - his new teammates.
"He is a great kid that I believe has his best years of running ahead of him at Rider," Smith said.
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