Breaking Records, Winning Championships Becoming Norm for Demarest Track & Field


Quinn Postman, Co-Editor in Chief

Before the 2022-2023 winter track & field season began, Demarest Track & Field already had a storied history. 

Boys Track & Field has won the League Championship 23 times in the spring and ten times in the winter, the State Sectional Championship 13 times, and the Bergen County Championship 18 times. 

Girls Track & Field won the League Championship 21 times in the spring and seven times in the winter, the State Sectional Championship seven times, and the Bergen County Championship 12 times. 

Demarest Track & Field has been one of the most successful programs in NVD history, and has produced the most college athletes. This year, five athletes have committed to compete in DI and DIII Track & Field. 

A big reason for the success of this program is the coaching staff. The staff includes Michael Theuerkauf, Michael Ippolito, Chris Woodford, Kevin Walter, Brendan Kenny, and Anthanassios Haralambopolous. 

Every week, a practice schedule is released outlining the details of what each event group is doing. Usually, one day is built up as an “anchor” day. These workouts are designed to test every athlete and build their pain tolerance for race day. 

“I follow the same basic pattern for sprinters in the winter. The week usually starts with short, explosive speed with a lot of recovery,” Walter said. “You gotta train fast to run fast. Follow that with extensive tempo ranging from 150-400m at 70-75% with shorter recovery. After that, a circuit that builds strength and flexibility and gives the legs a break from the pounding.” 

Wally has been in the program for a very long time and has been part of many successful track & field teams at NVD. Wally was the girls track & field coach, and between 1995 and 2000 was one of the most respected coaches in the county and helped create a winning tradition within the girls program. 

Coach Kenny continued that tradition, and today Coach Ippolito is carrying the torch.

Select sprinters joined the distance team for an extra hard “anchor” workout (Photo Courtesy of Michael Theurekauf)

 “The last day of the week is the anchor workout. The goal is more speed, but also learning how to run fast and not panic when your body breaks down,” Walter said. “These workouts are really hard, but they help a ton and build a lot of camaraderie, which really helps with team chemistry. The hours spent together and the intensity tends to build cool relationships with kids in a way that’s different than the classroom.”

Saturdays are often days when specific athletes come in for extra workouts, which include treadmill workouts, hurdles, throwing, high jump, etc. 

“I’m happy if my team trains hard and competes hard,” Walter said. “You tend to win more than you lose if that happens, but if we lose and have done both of these things, I sleep fine.” 

Each coach prides himself on treating these student-athletes as college athletes. In this program, most of the coaches have been head coaches in the past, and some have been county coaches of the year. 

Michael Theuerkauf has been the head coach of the boys track & field team for the last 27 years. After attending Demarest High School, Theuerkauf competed in the shot put at Virginia University, winning the ACC championship.

“My philosophy is to develop the team and athletes to be the best version of themselves in the classroom, on the field, and in the community through hard work, positive attitude, good team, chemistry, and building a healthy competitive vibe in practice where athletes aren’t afraid to challenge themselves or others which in turn elevates the players around them,” Theuerkauf said. 

The boys team looks to continue their success at State Sectionals this Friday (Photo Courtesy of @nvdtrackandfield)

Theuerkauf also served as an assistant throws coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Theuerkauf has coached many throwers who have or will compete in DI Track & Field. 

“If all you do as a person, athlete, coach, or whatever is focus on your goals, dreams, or prizes, one of two things happens,” Theuerkauf said. “You either become so blinded by your dreams that you can’t see the process, or you only look at the prize as a win-at-any-costs mentality. This leads to breaking the rules to win, cheating, poor sportsmanship, and an us vs. them mentality. That is a terrible thing to be proud of.”

This season, things have started well for the Norsemen. The Boys captured the Big North League Championship by a score of 179-84 over arch-rivals Old Tappan. The Girls finished second behind a very talented Old Tappan girls team by a score of 135.5-129.5. 

Among the many athletes who competed at the meet, Liam Paneque really stood out amongst the rest. 

Paneque, a sophomore, is labeled by Turk as “maybe our best athlete” and showcased his talents in the high jump and long jump. He finished first in the high jump with a height of 5’10” and first in the long jump with a jump of 22 ft. 

“Coming into high school, I knew I wanted to do track and field,” Paneque said. “I didn’t think I’d be any good at jumping because I originally thought about doing mostly javelin.”

Paneque has set his goals very high for the rest of his track & field career at NVD. 

“Over the course of my career at NVD, I would really like to become an All-American and place at nationals. I also want to compete at Penn Relays,” Paneque said. 

Paneque also holds the school record for the long jump with a 22’11” jump. Paneque hopes to break that record again this season and finish top in the state in the long jump. 

Then, at the Bergen County Relays, the boys and girls shuttle hurdle races impressed despite the boys and girls teams losing to Ridgewood. 

Both teams were placed in the large team division despite Northern Valley Demarest only having a student population of just under 1000 students. The boys lost to Ridgewood by a score of 80-69, and the girls finished third behind River Dell and Ridgewood with a score of 56. 

The boys shuttle hurdle team included Andrew Tandler, Liam Paneque, Chase Marks, and Jack Attali. They finished with a time of 30.84s, placing them first at the Bergen County relays, qualifying them for nationals, and breaking the school record for the 55m hurdle relays. 

The team’s time of 30.84s also is the United States’ number one time for high school student-athletes. 

Anchor-leg, Jack Attali, has had a great year so far. Not only was he voted North Jersey Boys Winter Track Performer of the Week for Jan. 8-14, but he also broke the school record for the 55m hurdles with a time of 7.69s earlier this season. 

Jack Attali hopes to break the school record again next meet (Photo Courtesy of Jack Attali)

Before every meet, Attali makes sure to get a bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel from Wally’s and a Gatorade. Attali hopes to win nationals for the shuttle hurdles and for himself. 

“Breaking the school record is cool, but we know we could do better,” Attali said. 

The girls shuttle hurdle team included Kailey Attali, Erin Nolan, Lauren Tong, and Lauren Conti. They finished with a time of 36.09s, which qualified them for nationals, and broke the school record for the 55m hurdle relays. Their time is number two in NJ and number eight in the US. 

Senior Erin Nolan missed the entire track season last year after struggling with knee tendinitis but is back this year and has started it with a bang. 

“I always looked up to the athletes that held a school record, and it’s really cool to think that our names are at the top of the list,” Nolan said. “We train hard every day, so it’s really nice to see that it pays off and we can get the opportunity to compete at a national level.

Nolan has been on varsity since freshman year and aims to make her senior year the best one yet. 

“We are really hoping to break into the top six at the national meet because if we do, we can become All-Americans, which is something that none of us ever thought of,” Nolan said. “Hopefully, we can win a state sectional title in the winter and spring this year. It would be awesome to end with two sectional titles for my last year competing.” 

The next meet for Boys and Girls Track & Field is State Sectionals on Friday, Feb. 3.