MIDDLETOWN – What an exciting time to be a part of the Mater Dei Prep family. After a difficult time in the school’s history back in 2015, when the school should have been celebrating its 50 year anniversary  as a proven winner in the classroom, community and athletics, the Seraphs were on the verge of closing their doors for good.  Fast-forward four years and this small, tight-knit community is shining brighter than ever before.

This spring has been a special time to be around both the girls and boys track teams as they both finished undefeated and captured their respective B Central division titles. The girls team consists of six seniors, six juniors, 18 sophomores and seven freshmen. The boys team consists of three seniors, three juniors, 15 sophomores and nine freshmen. 
The Lady Seraphs quietly put together one of their best runs in school history under head coach Christine Altland. The team struggled in an early season scrimmage with Raritan, but after hours of practice both as a team and as individuals, they took aim at their regular-season foes. 
After an easy win over an undersized Keyport team, Mater Dei had one of its biggest meets of the season in a tri-meet with Ranney and Point Pleasant Beach. The last couple of years it has usually come down to Point Beach topping Mater Dei Prep, but the fight and determination these Lady Seraphs have was too much for the Gulls to overcome. The meet was run in the rain and cold but all three teams competed at the highest level. Both Beach and Mater Dei Prep beat Ranney and were battling each other to the very last event, the 4x400. The foursome of Kate Braun, Sarah Wickham, Bridget Kamin and Lara Gritzek saved their best race of the day for last, taking first in the event and securing the tri-meet victory.
The Lady Seraphs took care of business against Asbury Park and Henry Hudson, setting up the division showdown for the B Central championship against Trinity Hall. The two schools traveled to Point Beach for the meet in perfect conditions for running – sunny and a light breeze. Mater Dei Prep used all phases of its track and field team to defeat Trinity Hall, 83-51, and capture its first title in nine years. 
“Each meet our top performances have really changed. One minute it’s our jumpers, pole vault, high jump, long/triple that really sneak in and pick up valuable points. Our throwers have been a huge contributor to sweeping every event in our meets and have continued to remain on top,” said Altland of her young squad. “On the track we’ve maintained solid performances for our roster being so heavily on the freshman and sophomore side. They have really showed that they may be young, but their hearts are big!”
All season, the Lady Seraphs have used a range of top performers from field events in high jumpers (Harley Amisano, Christina Corsaro and Kaila Fontanetta), long jumpers and triple jumpers (Bella Martino, Brooke Luchina, Tori Kirk and Amisano), pole vaulters (Mackenzie Urban, Bridgette Blumetti, Kamin and Lindsey Gosse), javelin throwers (Ashley Leache, Nora Stewart), shot putters (Kirk, Madison Ducsai and Abby Zohn) and discus throwers (Kirk, Ducsai). On the track side, the team has a ton of depth and determination in hurdles (Braun, Rose Petry, Jenna Dacquel, Urban, Kirk and Gritzek), sprints (Stewart, Luchina, Bridgette Sullivan and Kamin), and distance runners (Haley Amisano, Alex Corman, Grace Donahue, Emily Smith, Wickham and Fontanetta).
“Coming into this season we really wanted to put the girls’ name back on the map and pay tribute to our past head coach Kevin Attridge, who passed away this year. Kevin was the main reason Mater Dei Prep girls cross country, indoor track, outdoor track and field was the way it was and we wanted to bring what he worked so hard to establish years ago back in his honor. This win was a great win for the girls, our school, and also for coach Kevin Attridge,” said Altland. 
With the season winding down, the Lady Seraphs are continuing to set personal and school records as well as competing at top meets in the Shore Conference and beyond. The future of the program, once thought to be losing steam, is once again back among the top in the area and built for years ahead to set their expectations higher and higher.
“Coming into this year, I was nervous with the numbers being larger and mainly on the younger side and how that would look. I know we had the numbers, but the talent was a mystery,” said Altland of her expectations for this season. “When you look over our roster you see soccer players, cheerleaders, basketball players, tennis players, and runners – but when you are out at practice you see a team. The atmosphere that was created from day one has been the atmosphere of champions. We’ve had several talks with the girls about being on top and what it takes to be there, how we can get there and these girls have continued to prove that they are ready for any challenge that is to come, that they will get through it as a team.” 
Their goals moving forward are to see what noise they can create at the state sectionals meet. They have the depth in events that they never had before, girls trying new events to add potential points to the team score. They have numbers to make the goal of being sectional champions a very strong reality. These girls are hungry, and that’s what so great about them being so young, they aren’t afraid to get after what it takes to be a champion. 
“I do want to add that this has been the best year yet with the coaching staff we have put together. We have knowledgeable coaches in every event and more. We work hard day in and down out, off hours figuring out new techniques and ways to continue to get our athletes to grow,” Altland continued. “As one big program we have grown our numbers and talent levels in just a short amount of time, I’m excited to see what the future holds for us, because it is very bright!”
The Mater Dei Prep boys team is no stranger to championships the last couple of years and this year is no different under the guidance of first-year head coach Jeff Papcun. The boys have not skipped a beat this season in defending their B Central stronghold.  
“Too be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I was walking into a program that had three head coaches in a matter of three months, including myself. I knew I was walking into a program with a lot of history, a lot of championships and a lot of amazing athletes,” said Papcun of his early expectations. “I came here to help these young men succeed in everything they do. I told my team in the first meeting with them that this team is not about me, it’s about them! Our expectation was to get these kids to where they need to be on the track and in the classroom. Once we were able to come together as coaches and athletes, we built that trust we needed to be a family which led to us winning B Central.”
These young men are the example of hard work and dedication. Every day they are in the weight room getting stronger and working on their mobility. They are always working above and beyond on the track and in the field. Their mindset every year coming into a program rich in tradition is to take care of the division and then compete with the top teams in the county and Shore Conference which will only push them to get better and focus on win state sections and group titles.
The Seraphs wrapped up another undefeated B Central title in a tri-meet against Asbury Park and Henry Hudson in mid-April.  On the day, the Seraphs took home first place finishes in 400IH and HH by Patrick Osborn, 100 and 200 sprints by Clarence Lewis, 400 sprint by Sincere Saunders, long jump and triple jump by Naran Buntin, shot put by Amir Coleman, discus by Noah Lawson, javelin by Connor Closs and 4x400 relay by Saunders, Buntin, Kyree Drake and Liam Stewart.
At the Raritan Rocket Relays, the foursome of Drake, Eli Johnston, Stewart, and Xavier Chisolm set a new school record in the SMR 1K with a time of 2:09.12. Mater Dei Prep was also represented at the Penn Invitation Relays where Saunders, Buntin, Stewart and Drake competed against teams from across the United States, Canada and Jamaica.
“Our 4x400 had an amazing experience when they went to Penn two weeks ago. It wasn’t the outcome that the kids wanted but it was a great day to see these young men compete against not only American teams but Jamaican teams as well,” said Papcun.
“The order sets the tone, getting out fast and running the strongest at the race,” said Drake of setting their school record and what makes their group so strong.
Saunders added, “We have four dedicated runners who work hard, practice and come to school every day and we have guys who want to win.” 
“We all have a special bond with quick feet and dedication to each other,” said Stewart.
Buntin added, “We have dedicated runners who practice every day, work hard and get out strong in the first 200 and wear and tear our bodies to get a good time.”
Buntin also has a school record of his own in the triple jump with a distance of 43-5 at Saturday’s Monmouth County Championship, breaking his  own record of 41-8.25 that he set the previous week a the Monmouth County Relays. Of the record, Buntin said, “It means a lot to me, even though I already and everyday feel like I am competing not just against other teams and at states but more against myself. I push myself harder than anyone else can push me.”