Matt Sconzo has stepped up this season to help make up for the loss of Connor Delaney, who has been sidelined by injury.
Matt Sconzo has stepped up this season to help make up for the loss of Connor Delaney, who has been sidelined by injury.

It’s no surprise that Matt Sconzo found his way onto the cross country team after coming to Ewing High School. Running has been a part of Sconzo’s life since he was young.

“I’ve definitely thought of running as an escape,” Sconzo said. “It always calms me down.”

Sconzo can still remember his first race even though it was almost a decade ago. “My first 5k race was when I was 7 or 8 at Mercer County Park,” he said. “It was a race for a nurse who was getting sick, and it was raising funds for her. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was just running it to run it.”

Nowadays Sconzo runs to help the Ewing boys cross country team. With Connor Delaney sidelined by injury, Sconzo has vaulted to the top spot on the team.

Sconzo is one of six seniors for the Blue Devils — half the team. There are currently no freshmen, but head coach Ed Dutch hopes to find some during the track and field season.

In addition to Sconzo and Delaney, other Ewing seniors are Steven Dressler, Derick Wyatt, Jesse Amankwaah and John Bentz. Aaron Minor and John Vasquez are juniors. Sophomores are Mohammad Srouji, Ryan Webster, Jordan Forsythe and Chris Andriana.

Most of the Blue Devils are returning runners that gained experience last year. Having a year of cross country at the high school level has been a benefit to Sconzo.

The girls out for the team this year are senior Katie Pischel, freshman Michelle Frolio, sophomore Tyler Boncoeur, sophomore Kaylie Morris and sophomore Amy Lear. They are hoping to score as a team in the division race for the first time this season.

Sconzo gave the Blue Devils another strong competitor. Delaney has been their top runner, and Ewing was hoping he’d return for their division race and be healthy for the Mercer County Championships on Oct. 28 and the Central Jersey Group III championship on Nov. 5.

“Connor is starting to come back,” Dutch said. “Connor has been a great leader on the team. Right from the beginning last year, Connor was our No. 1 guy throughout the season. Even now, with not being at his best physically, he’s still an important part of the team. He’s out there every day, even when he took a couple weeks off (from training). He’s making sure all the guys are still working hard. He’s a great asset to the team.”

Sconzo has helped to keep standards high for Ewing. The Blue Devils are looking for a strong finish to a year in which they already have knocked off two teams, including a Group IV school in Trenton.

Sconzo credits Dutch and Ewing track coaches Matt Dalessio and Dan Montferrat for helping him develop. He’s improved in cross country and his time has dropped in track as well.

“When I went into track my sophomore year, I wasn’t very good but I ran the 1-mile and 2-mile and dropped my times significantly,” Sconzo said. “Even last year, I still dropped a lot of time off. As a sophomore, my best mile time was just barely under 6:00. Now my mile time is under 5:00 and I can do the two-mile in under 11:00.”

In the winter, Sconzo swims a variety of distances while focusing on freestyle for Ewing’s swim team. Running, however, remains his passion, something that he has enjoyed from an early age and enjoyed greater success in the older he has gotten and the more serious he has become about training.

“I think races are definitely the more fun part of it,” he said. “All the hard work pays off in the end.”