Leadership not wanting for cross-country Spartans

| 24 Oct 2017 | 01:48

By Josh Lashley

It’s been stated often, yet it is still very accurate that there ar many things that can give the head coach of a sports team figurative, if not literal, headaches prior to the start of the regular season.
At the top of that list could be what athletes will emerge as leaders of the squad. This is most certainly not a problem for the Sparta High School boy’s cross country program this year.
The Spartans have a trio of senior captains-Matthew Guerra, Brandon Shepherd and Brian Schoch-who are doing an outstanding job of guiding their teammates in a very challenging athletic endeavor.
“All of the captains have earned varsity letters prior to being named captain,’’ Sparta head coach Tony Lombardo said. “They have shown strong commitment and dedication to the sport. I also determined that each possesses some type of leadership quality. All of the captains have run personal bests this season with Brandon Shepherd leading the way with a run 18:11 for the 5K at Central Park in Morris Plains.
“I have seen each of these young men continue to develop their leadership throughout the season. My goal was to take these individuals and give them an opportunity to further develop their leadership skill.’’
Each of the captains make themselves available whenever a teammate needs proper guidance and they are strong students as well.
“These student-athletes inspire, encourage and motivate their fellow athletes,’’ Lombardo said. “They act as role models for all members of the team, even amongst themselves. All of these student-athletes are quality students, each working to the best of their ability to achieve the highest possible academic stand as they prepare for college.’’
Lombardo mentioned a member of the junior class who contributed in a big way for the Spartans this fall.
“Nicholas Matkiwsky is a very valuable contributor to the team,’’ Lombardo said. “He is the number three runner on the team. He is a very athletic young man that is known for his strength on the tennis court. Nick continues to improve as he matures as a runner.’’
The NJSIAA Sectional Meets are scheduled for November 4.
“Sparta cross country is going through a transition phase, our squad is small in comparison to most other schools in the surrounding area,’’ Lombardo said. “This I believe is a result of other fall sports teams, as well as marching band, pulling potential athletes away for a sport that they could show great potential.
“As a coach-educator, I’m happy that kids are participating in some type of extracurricular activity whether or not it is cross county. I am especially, grateful to the athletes that have come out for the team, and I am very proud of each and every one of them for making a commitment to such a great sport.’’