There’s a new indoor track coach at Essex Tech this winter, but the team’s goals have remained the same: keep working hard and improve every day.

Christos Roumeliotis has taken over the boys and girls coaching job after serving as an assistant both indoors and spring seasons under Dan Connors a year ago. Connors stepped down from the track post after his first season as head football coach, but is helping his former assistant.

“I’m excited to get going, and I look to Dan for help with all sorts of questions. He’s such a big influence in all athletics here at Essex Tech,” said Roumeliotis.

The program is growing with over a hundred athletes out for the boys and girls squads. A year ago both teams had two wins, beating Hamilton-Wenham and Manchester Essex while competing in the tough Cape Ann League.

The boys program has been around for a while, but having a separate girls team is relatively new. The numbers are steadily growing with over 100 athletes out and more newcomers for the girls.

Last year as a sophomore running track for the first time, Laraine Harring not only qualified for states but won the 600 for Division 5 and finished 15th at All-States. She holds school records in both the 600 (1:39.86), and 1000 (3:15.91) and anchored the 4x400 relay team that qualified for states. The Salem News all-star figures to be one of the top competitors in the league in those events again this year.

Seniors Ashleigh and Erin Kelley are coming off terrific cross country seasons. Amanda Davison adds strength in the distance events while senior Summer St. Hilaire is strong in the 55 meter dash, and fellow senior Bridget Gaskell will be part of the 400 relay team as well as running the 300.

“We have some young talent with potential, and the attitude is great,” said Roumeliotis. “These kids are ready to learn. We will rely on our veterans to lead and show the younger athletes how it’s done.

“Being in the Cape Ann League has been a great experience for our team, because it’s a very competitive and challenging league. Going up against tough teams every meet will make our team stronger and faster. Last year, our 4x400 relay team finished ninth our of 30 teams at the Mass State Coaches Relays, and we hope to have a strong relay again.”

The biggest strength of the girls team is experience. The Hawks are loaded with athletes that have been running varsity track for 2-3 years, and Roumeliotis plans to rely on them to teach the younger ones the ropes.

Because there are so many freshmen out, having senior leadership is essential. While the potential is there, the coach is looking to find the right spots for them. He believes the girls are strongest in the 55 meter dash, 600 with Harring, and 4x400 relay. Junior Gabby Okparaoko came out for spring track as a sophomore and displayed talent in the shot put.

“We’re pretty balanced in the different events,” said Roumeliotis. “There are a lot of holes to fill for the boys team because we lost some strong seniors, but we do have some promising athletes. Senior Jake Cummings heads up the 55 hurdles and 4x400 relay while junior Cedric Garcia is also on the relay team and will do the 300.”

Sophomore high jumper Jack Malionek is another athlete with talent that Roumeliotis is counting on to have a breakout season.

“We need to be competitive in this tough league,” the coach said. “Younger athletes have to step up and be ready to give it their all. It’s early, but we have some potential in the shot put circle.

“All the kids are super excited to train and compete. I am very happy to take over the head coaching job and build on what coach Connors and others started.”

||||