There is no shortage of leaders for the Sparta High School cross country program this year. Madison O’Hare, Marina O’Hare and Genesis Sanchez serve as captains for the girls' team.
“These athletes were selected by their peers for their leadership, positivity and grit as student athletes,’’ Sparta head coach Sarah Pisano said. “They have helped lead the Lady Spartans to a (winning record), defeating the defending Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Divisional champion Morris Hills."
They lead by example in the classroom too, and are in Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
Marina O’Hare started running competitively when she was a first-year student at Sparta High.
“Originally I didn't really enjoy running, but I wanted to stay active,’’ Marina said. “...I try not to stress myself out too much and just have fun, which probably helps my overall performance. My personal goal this season is to break my personal record 23:25 by at least five seconds."
“My parents encouraged me to join the sport at the beginning of high school and continued to support me throughout the years by attending many meets," she said. "Coach Pisano and Coach Gilmartin are amazing coaches that not only care about their athletes' performances...They are great people who go above and beyond to coach us to become the best athletes and the best people we can be.’’
Madison O’Hare started running competitively when she was a first-year student too, and she names Pisano and Gilmartin as positive influences.
“I wanted to join a team where I would meet new people," Madison O'Hare said. "I've heard so much from other high school students about how the cross country team was filled with kind and accepting people who push each other to do their best."
O'Hare's personal goal is to break 21 minutes by the end of the season.
Sanchez started cross country at age 16. What does she love about it?
“The positive environment, my friends on the team, and being able to run on trails surrounded by nature,’’ Sanchez said. “My strengths as a runner are being able to have a strong finish despite being tired and never backing down from a challenge."
Her personal goals are to top her finish time in the 5K and to become a Division 1 athlete. She'd also like the team to make it to States, and to perform well there.
"The major positive influences in my career have been my mom, friends, family, Coach Pisano, Coach Gilmartin and Coach Heckman," she said. "They've always had faith in me and have pushed me to become the athlete that I am today. I am very fortunate to have them in my life.’’
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Sectional Meets are Nov. 9, 2019.
“Nuala Hynes, despite an early season injury, has motivated the team greatly,’’ Pisano said. “She was able to return to help our team defeat Morris Hills. This group of girls just led the lady Spartans, as of Sept. 23, 2019, to a NJAC Divisional Championship for the first time in 35 years."