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Running the Extra Mile: Rock City Striders

by Amaya McDonald
“Rock City on 3!” This cheer is shouted by the members of the Rock City Striders Track and Field Club as they huddle up at the end of each practice session held on Nyack High School’s recently remodeled track. Athletes between the ages of five and 16, from different areas of Rockland County, have joined the club and become “Striders,” in hopes of becoming better runners, throwers, and jumpers.
The Rock City Striders Track and Field Club was established in 2011 by Jonathan Marsland, better known as “Coach Jon,” a former Nyack High School athlete who wanted to provide a new opportunity for athletes in Rockland County.
Marsland, long a track enthusiast, founded the club after observing his two young children at meets around New York. “At the meets, I noticed that a lot of kids were part of track clubs and they were interacting with one another while my kids just sat there being bored. So, I reached out to my good friend Coach Emmanuel Colimon and said, ‘I want to start a track club for the youth of Rockland.’ Once we got off the phone the wheels started to roll. A month later, the Rock City Striders came to life!”
The Rock City Striders’ mission is to provide a quality program for each athlete and their families through a constructive track and field experience that is based on individual development and performance. The coaches work hard to instill core values in each of the athletes, pushing for success both on and off the track,with the support of parents and community. The coaches also strive to help improve the quality of life for both student athletes and their families through physical fitness and health and wellness education. Since the club’s establishment, its membership has grown tremendously, as has passion for track and field among the young athletes.
Louise Jones has been a Strider since she was in the third grade. Jones is headed to Tulane University this fall, where she has been recruited to join the track and field team. In addition to her involvement in the Nyack High School Track and Field Team and love for the sport, Jones credits the encouragement and mentorship of the Rock City Coaches and teammates with her improvement as an athlete.
While the techniques and strategies Jones has learned while running with the Rock City Striders have been valuable, she also appreciates the life lessons she’s learned, including how to be a leader. Because of the team’s inclusive age range, the older athletes are given the responsibility of leading by example and teaching the younger runners how to stretch or how to conduct themselves at track meets. Jones also became a more disciplined running with the Rock City Striders during the summer; she sacrificed some of her summer vacations to attend practices and high-level track meets. As her involvement in the club comes to an end, Jones said her favorite part of being a Rock City Strider has been watching the younger runners progress and fall in love with the sport just like she did in the third grade. “They learn to be proud of their achievements, learn from failure, and take ownership of whatever the outcome is,” she said.
Jones’s mother, Anne Jones, is extremely grateful for the support and encouragement from the Rock City Coaches. Since enrolling her daughter in the club in 2011, Jones has come to appreciate all the hard work put in by the coaches who continue to make an impact on the athletes as “they spend countless hours organizing events and researching ways to improve the program during their free time.”
Marsland has even created a new project, the Track Genius Fitness Lab–or, “The Lab.” The Track Genuis Fitness Lab is a training gym located in Nyack where Coach Jon  provides personal training for the youth of Rockland. The goal is to cultivate a relationship with his athletes during the off-season, while helping them to maintain the strategies and techniques they learned during the summer.
As the Striders’ summer season comes to an end, Marsland emphasized how proud he is of all his athletes: “Being a part of all of my athletes’ journeys has been very rewarding,” he said. “It makes me proud to see kids happy and achieving goals they may have never had the opportunity to reach. Seeing some of my athletes that I have trained over the years getting track scholarships makes me very excited and proud that I was a big part in their lives. At the end of the day, this journey has helped me realize that young people need these outlets to help them grow and become stronger individuals.”
For more information about the Rock City Striders Track and Field Club: For more information about the Track Genius Fitness Lab:

Amaya McDonald is a Nyack News & Views intern. She is a rising senior at Nyack High School. 

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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