Scott Copperman looked at his West Milford boys team before the winter season started and wondered how it would retain the Passaic County title it had battled so hard to win last year.
"We lost a lot of star performers who had earned All-County honors," Copperman said. "And with
our conference meet so early, I didn't know what would end up happening."
But after getting their feet wet with a second-place finish behind powerful West Orange early in
the season in the Northern Hills meet, the Highlanders went to the Passaic County meet two weeks
later with a strong purpose.
"We knew we might not win many events, but we had the type of kids who could pile the second,
third, and fourth finishes," Copperman said. "Maybe some of the other teams with superstars were
going to point to the end of February for some of the bigger individual meets, but we had a goal
of doing well as a team and this was our chance."
West Milford did just that, winning only one event (a surprise victory by junior high jumper Tim
Lawrence) but scoring in every event except the 55 in gaining their second straight crown. The
Highlanders had 11 finishes between second and fourth places to win the meet by 20 points.
The effort makes the Highlanders The Record's North Jersey Team of the Year.
"We have some very good kids like Greg Weiss and Brendan Kenny, both of whom made the State Meet
of Champions," Copperman said. "They're both good leaders and role models - and Brendan's twin
brother Ryan adds to that group.
"But the depth we get from Jeff Gunther, Keith Jennings, Shawn Gilroy, Bobby Gamble, and Luke
Gunther and throwers like Joe VanDerBogart and Walter Peseski make us that much better."
West Milford also relies on strong support from parents and younger siblings, a fan base that
can help the Highlanders recruit athletes for the future.
"We've been lucky with families like the Gunthers, Jennings, Weisses, Trudells, and others that
have multiple kids that when the first kid has a positive experience, they talk it up to their
brothers and we get another generation."