For the Love of the Sport--Spending a day with the New Jersey-New York Track Club

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IMG_1431.JPGThe NY-NJ Track Club (note Coach Gags with hat in center, John Trautmann, NYNJTC blue tshirt in center, and Jeff Benjamin, to his right, author)

Frank Gagliano is a man among men. His assistant coach, John Trautmann, a supremely talented athlete, was haunted by injuries during his top competitive years, but has come back to enjoy his own running and coach another generation of fine athletes.

Gags is a special man, and those who are coached or influenced by him, know that love and understand the responsibility of giving one's best.

Jeff Benjamin, one of my long suffering writers, wrote this piece about Millrose time (mid February). In my own way, and own time, I am publishing this piece in March.



For the Love of the Sport- Spending a day with the the New Jersey-New York Track Club

By Jeff Benjamin

A dreary snow storm day occurred this past Monday as this writer ventured over to the Rutgers University Indoor practice facility. Dedication would surely be needed for athletes willing to train in these cold, stormy conditions, but one could take solace in doing their workouts inside of this facility. Well, maybe not.

"We're warming up outside and doing drills, then we'll be coming in," said John Trautmann as he greeted me inside. Trautmann, a Georgetown Alum and one of New York states' greatest distance runners from Monroe-Woodbury, was a dominant 5000 runner (13:20) two decades ago. Today, Trautmann was definitely dressed for the weather. Trautmann, a 1992 Olympian, almost defeated Said Aouita before 10,000 screaming fans at the NY Games back in 1993. John Trautmann was followed inside by the athletes of the New Jersey New York Track Club, where he serves as an assistant Coach. " I had injured my plantar severely when I won the Olympic Trials in New Orleans back in '92," said Trautmann. "After trying to come back, I gave up on running and the Sport and went to work on Wall Street for 18 years. I decided a few years ago that I loved and missed it so much that I'm back here doing what I really love," said the former Hoya NCAA star, who returned to coach. John Trautmann is also running once again, as he has set several Masters Age-Group records over the last few years.
IMG_1436.JPGA track session, with Coach Gags and his chair

The next figure walking into the "Bubble" behind the athletes embodies that love. Stern, but focused and encouraging, Frank "Gags" Gagliano has been the living embodiment of the Sport for decades. Gags has been involved at almost every level of the Sport and, despite his East coast roots, has never shied away from traveling throughout the country to try and help produce some of the nation's best track athletes. Nowadays, the 79 years young legend is now the Head Coach of NJ/NY. Yet, despite the fact that Gags brings his lawn chair to sit, as the athletes prepare for their track workout, make no mistake about it. In bringing an aura of confidence and professionalism, Gags is the boss, and the athletes, know and respect it.

Alongside Rutgers Boys Coach Mike Mulqueen (who also serves as an assistant to NJ-NY), Gags explains the purpose of this days' workouts. "This is a strength workout," said Gags. " You have to remember that some of them raced in Boston and they'll also be at Millrose too." Trautmann then talks about the details. "Basically there a a few groups, but these guys here are going to do 3 800s with a 2 minute rest and then repeat 2 more sets."
Challenging indeed.
"But, these guys are going to do the 800s around 2:16-2:14 and the 200s around 30, maybe 29," said Trautmann. " The other groups are doing something similar. Nothing all-out, but more strength."

While Well-known NJ NY members Ashley Higginson (The 2015 Pan Am Steeplechase Gold Medalist) and Kyle Merber (3:54 miler) along with some others are not present on this day, there surely is no talent lacking for these sessions. World Champion Steeple finalist Domm Cabral is present, along with others like Heather Wilson, Mike Rutt, Stephanie Schappert, Wayne Bartholemew, and Greta Feldman, among others. The attitude among them is very professional as well, a reflection of what Gags and his coaching crew (which also consists of Meg Waldron, Rich Agnello, Jim Cifelli, Marshall Mintz, Robert More and former world-class Steepler Tom Nohilly) have instilled during the clubs' six year existence.

Founded by Gags back in 2010, at the behest of Erin Donahue, The New Jersey-New York Track Club has developed into a beacon here in the Northeast for post-collegians with National and World-Class dream, who wish to base their preparations here in this region. "I really like training here in this area," said Cabral. "Plus the coaches and teammates are just great." The results speak for themselves as 14 of these athletes qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials, an accomplishment Gags and his crew hope to build upon. "Gags has such a love for the sport, that it passes on to our team in lots of ways," said Trautmann.

As the runners cruise through their anticipated splits (which are all within the goals set) Gags, sitting in his chair, screams encouragement, while Trautmann runs over to the various checkpoints to give them their splits. "Getting in a little workout too!," he quips.
Trautmann calls attention to a few of the athletes on the team. "Rutt fell in Boston so we have to keep an eye on him." Meanwhile Schappart and Feldman both run with Wilson as the ladies keep pace as well. Wilson ran a 4:30 mile the other night in Boston and looks poised for a breakthrough in this Olympic year. Schappart is also the sister of Nicole Tully, which seems to show that this club has reached out pretty successfully in getting some top- notch post collegiate runners to join.
"John Gregorek joined us out of Oregon and is living here in New Jersey," said Trautmann of the son of 3:51 Olympic Great John Gregorek SR. "But I'm also excited about Brian Gagnon!" Gagnon, a 1:45 800 runner from the University of Connecticut, has battled some injuries over the last few years, but Trautmann says he's healthy this year and looks forward to see what he can do.
IMG_1432.JPGThe writer (Jeff Benjamin) with John Trautmann, Assistant Coach
One would wonder if this club wasn't around if athletes like Gagnon along with others could rise up without this kind of guidance to chase their dreams in this area after college. But the secret is out! The New Jersey-New York Track Club is here and doing quite well!!
All for the Love of the Sport.
Final note --
Although a USATF Elite Development Club, the New Jersey-New York Track Club is always relying upon the support of fans, friends and supporters of the Sport. The club also sells merchandise as well for fundraising purposes.
For anyone interested in supporting the Team, or to just learn more about these unique and dedicated athletes on the Team, Please check out NJNYTC.com !

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