The RBR Running Renaissance
LITTLE SILVER – In the fall, Red Bank Regional’s (RBR) Girls Cross-Country Team had its best season in years, finishing undefeated for only the third time in school history and among the top 25 girls cross country teams in the state. RBR’s Boys Cross-Country also has had an impressive season with just one loss.
The boys indoor track team is approaching the excellence it once held as “the team to beat” a long time ago.
RBR’s head track and field coach Michael Bland’s team of sprinters, composed of seniors Xavier Chestnut, Mario Williams Scott Reeves, all of Red Bank, and junior Sean Patterson of Little Silver, have been shattering RBR records every meet and winning, even beating perennial powerhouse Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in some areas.
Last year, RBR beat CBA in the 4-by-4 competition at the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Championships. At every invitational, RBR has placed in the top three. At the Rhode Island Invitational they took first place and Chestnut earned four gold medals as well as most outstanding player.. He currently is classified as the fourth top sprinter in the state.
During the most recent Toms River Invitational, the 4-by-4 team took the Group 2 Relay championship.
Other RBR athletes also are performing personal bests each meet and contributing to continually setting new RBR indoor track records.
Female athletes have also done very well. Runners Natalie Sidun (300 meters), Marissa Albano (600 meters), and Serena Dixon (shot put) have all broken school records and placed very high in competitions.
“We try to create an atmosphere where everyone has a role and if you put the hard work in, you can win and winning is contagious,” Bland said. “I think the kids saw the success of the program and the direction it was going.”
He tells his students that no one is great at everything, but everyone can be good at something. That is what he loves about track and field as everyone has an opportunity to be good at something.
Bland describes his runners’ dedication with the example of Scott Reeves who also ran cross-country in the fall and played football. As the assistant football coach, he noticed that Reeves would run to school for his early morning lift, then run back to his home in neighboring Red Bank, and then run back again to RBR for cross-country practice.
Bland, who is assisted by coaches Brendan McGoldrick (head girls outdoor coach), Caliph El, Jerrett Sanderson Brad Olson (outdoor track) and Jeff Mauro (outdoor track), joined RBR last winter season. He arrives at RBR for his job in the special education department every day in his signature bow tie, projecting a serious image to his students and athletes that he is here and ready to work.
The track athletes practice every day, except Sunday, which Coach Bland said is for “rest and God.” Since last year, student participation has doubled in the indoor program increasing from 42 to 102 students.
RBR Athletic Director Del Dal Pra, who recruited Bland from Long Branch where he was serving as an assistant coach last year, said, “RBR may have had the talent and potential to do what is going on right now in track but Mike Bland has brought us passion and enthusiasm that has spread throughout the track program. I truly expect even bigger things over time when he has time to build our program into one of the top track teams in the Jersey Shore and New Jersey.”
While there are still meets to take place in the winter season, the running program has already brought great pride and excitement to the RBR athletic program and community.
If you liked this story, you’ll love our newspaper. Click here to subscribe