When John Hayes took over the West Milford girls team in 1990, he had a team of five, sometimes.
In fact, there were days that West Milford had to forfeit a meet because it didn't have enough runners to score.
The Highlanders had appeared in the State Group championships just three times, had never won a Passaic County title, and had never sent a runner to
the State Meet of Champions.
But in his 13 years as the West Milford head coach, Hayes has turned the Highlanders into a stable and thriving program, with more than two dozen
runners on the team this year. He has led the Highlanders to the last four State meets in both Group 3 and 4. And this year's team won its first
Passaic County championship in a thrilling tie-breaker with archrival and defending champion Wayne Valley.
As a result, Hayes is the North Jersey Girls Coach of the Year.
"We have such a great rivalry with Wayne Valley,'' said Hayes, whose team had lost a one-point decision to the Indians in the Northern Hills Skyline
meet just five days before its historic County win. "We knew this year that we needed a dependable fifth runner to have a chance, and then we got a
great freshman in Christina Valerio.''
Adding Valerio to returning juniors Lauren Grant, Emmie Perchak, and Amy Carlson, who set school records at the Lewis Morris Park course in
consecutive dual meets to start the season, sophomore Danielle Fisher, and a spirited senior class of 10 runners, only two of whom ran varsity
regularly, and Hayes had what he called "the best team in the school's history''.
"Our seniors were terrific,'' said Hayes. "Only Amanda Roesch and Caroline Hart were in our varsity and one of our captains, Renee Perry, ran only in
one big meet but there was no animosity and they worked hard every day.''
Hayes credits boys track coach Scott Copperman for helping him design some workouts for the team.
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