For the last two years, the Egg Harbor Township High School girls track and field team has been slightly overlooked.
However this season, the team plans on using that as fuel to help show it is a team worth recognizing.
“We definitely see it as motivational,” senior captain Lola Agabalogun said in a phone interview Monday. “It helps us want to prove the other teams wrong and show that we are one of the best teams in the area.”
“It’s hard for them sometimes when they do so well and work so hard and are sometimes overlooked, but at the same time that’s what motivates them,” EHT alumna and head coach Erika Vazquez said in a phone interview Thursday. “Maybe it’s seen as a negative, but it’s a positive as well, to do your best and show everyone what you’re capable of doing.”
The Eagles have done plenty already.
Last year, they finished the season undefeated (8-0) and won the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference for the first time in school history.
They beat longtime champion and rival Millville 78-62 for the first time since well before Vazquez took over
the program four years ago.
They also won their second consecutive Atlantic County championship and beat a talented Buena Regional team 138-73.5.
“It’s always exciting and anxious going against teams like Millville and Buena, but it’s never easy,” Vazquez said. “We definitely still have to prepare ourselves, work hard, do our best and not let the wins from last season lead us to believe we will have it again this year.”
Egg Harbor Township has come a long way since Vazquez took over the program. When she first started coaching in 2010, the team had about 60 girls. This season they have a roster of more than 115.
“It’s really great to see how the team has grown and how hard everyone has worked,” said Agabalogun, who has been on the team since her freshman year. “My first year we won like three meets and then to have a year like last year, it’s really exciting to see how far we’ve come.”
The way the Eagles use their depth is one of the reasons they have become so successful over the years.
“We always tell them that every girl is a point and it’s not just about first or second place,” Vazquez said. “We have to do our best as a team.”
The team will use the same mentality to continue to build the program and be even more successful this year.
“Last year has definitely inspired them to continue the success,” Vazquez said. “We want to build off last season and continue to set new goals for this year.”
Some of the new goals include finishing in the top three at sectionals, something the team has never done during the outdoor season.
“We’ve done so well locally and now we’re setting new goals to place on a larger scale and at a bigger arena,” said Vazquez. “We want to continue to take things to the next step.”
One way Vazquez hopes to keep the team motivated and focused, is with the wall outside her classroom.
The “motivational wall” is the last thing the girls see before exiting the building. It is made up of tiles with each girl’s individual goals they created for themselves.
“What I want is for them to always walk by the wall on their way to practice and see their individual goals and how all those individual goals create the team goal,” said Vazquez.
“It’s really good for us to see all the records and our goals everyday before practice,” Agabalogun said. “We’re reminded of why we’re out on the track and what were doing this for.”
The Eagles are already off to a good start and the indoor season proves they are capable of reaching their goals this season.
The team finished third at the Group IV sectionals, the highest it has ever finished during the indoor season.
Agabalogun won the South Jersey Group IV girls shot put with a distance of 39 feet, 9 inches and went on to win the state shot put title with a school record put of 40-7¾.
Also, three EHT runners finished in the top five in the same event for the first time at sectionals.
Nabiya Garrett finished second in the 55-meter dash, Amber Jenkins took fourth and newcomer Ayanna Garrett, Nabiya’s sister, finished fifth as a freshman.
“Seeing all the success from indoor has also pushed them even more to continue the success into the spring,” Vazquez said.
“But we have to continue to come together as a team and achieve our team goals as well.”
Ayanna and Julianna Catania are just two of the team’s six freshmen who are expected to help make the team’s goals a reality this season.
They will have some holes to fill as they lost runner and hurdler Katie Champion and jumper Tiara White to graduation.
“It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you graduate such great girls, but it’s also really exciting to see the new girls come out, enjoy it and do so well,” Vazquez said.
Along with Vazquez, captains Agabalogun and Juliann Brand are doing everything they can to keep the team motivated and focused on its mentality and aspirations.
“We tell them to remember why we’re out here, right now in the freezing cold, and why we spend so much time working out and pushing our bodies to their limits,” Agabalogun said.
“We’re always pushing each other to go a little further and to get to that next level. Reminding ourselves of all that definitely helps us.”
“We want to stay focused after coming off such a successful season,” Vazquez said. “I think if we approach this season the same way we did last year we can do well again.”
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