By Jean DePlacido
---- — The track program has been growing in leaps and bounds at North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie. The numbers of the co-operative program had grown to the point that it was necessary separate the two teams and give each its own head coach.
“We’re excited to have so many kids out for track,” said Paul Worth, the athletic director at North Shore Tech. “Rick Gardella used to do both the boys and girls in past years when we didn’t have many girls out. Now we have over 40 girls and 48 boys, so we needed to add another head coach (Annie Bond).”
North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie competes in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference, and the team is coming off a very good year in which it won the league championship and lost only one meet.
Seven years ago, shortly before Gardella started coaching track at North Shore, there were only 15 kids out for the team. He talked another 15 to 20 into coming out his first year, and the program has taken off since then.
“It’s grown every year, and we’ve won three girls’ championships, including the last two years,” Gardella said. “Only two girls graduated from last year’s team, so they should be strong once again. The numbers for our boys are close to 50, too.
“I work more with the throwers and sprinters, and coach Bond was a distance runner, so she’ll take the 1,000, milers and two-milers. We also hired a first-year teacher, Grace Ghitto, as an assistant coach, and she’ll handle middle-distance and high jumpers. We’re fortunate that it works out well.”
Gardella used to coach track at Greater Lawrence Tech (where he still coaches football), a strong program that won 12 championships back in the 1980s and ‘90s.
“We have the ability to win races, but sometimes in the past we got out-pointed because we didn’t have the numbers to cover. Now we have bigger numbers to fill out all the events,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of seniors back who score a lot of points, a very strong junior class, and some up-and-coming sophomores who looked good as freshmen.
“Our distance and sprint teams look very balanced, and the high jumpers should be very competitive. Coach (Dan) Verrington did a great job with the cross country team this fall; they all came back in great shape. We bought some new equipment, which helps a lot.
Bond, a design and visual communications teacher at North Shore Tech, served as an assistant last season.
“The program has been growing so fast and because of the much larger numbers, we needed to pay more attention to the girls,” Bond said. “We have a bunch of new freshmen and a big influx from cross country. It’s great to see the girls getting involved.
“There is so much positive energy from the girls that were on the team a year ago. We had a handful who really enjoyed competing, and they started recruiting others. They all have a good attitude and tons of enthusiasm. I’m pleased to see they have a huge willingness to try new events and aren’t afraid to ask questions.”
Bond said there are 45 girls out now from the two schools, and while having a full roster presents a challenge in finding the right events for everybody to do, it also bodes well for the future.
“I’m finding some people are more competitive than others,” Bond said. “We have the numbers we’re going to need in case somebody gets injured, as others will be able to step up. Schoolwork always comes first, too, so there may be a time when we might be without some girls who have a conflict.”
“Last year, I took 20 boys and girls to the Auerbach Freshman-Sophomore Meet at the Reggie Lewis Center,” Gardella said. “I’d like to double that number this year because it’s a well-run meet, and the kids benefited from the experience.”