With several local, state and national titles under his belt, track athlete Grant Sanchez has paved the way for what he plans to be a sucessful senior year.
That success will not be shared with the community, however, as Sanchez transferred last week to Morris Hills. If former assistant track coach Anthony SanFilippo was asked to return as a coach this year, Sanchez, 16, said he would have stayed in Montville.
"I probably would have stayed just for him," Sanchez said. "I feel like he's a really good coach, he's always been there for all of the kids."
Sanchez is a four-time USA Track & Field All-American athlete, has been honored as a 2012 Morris County shot put and discus champion and medaled twice in the USA Track & Field Junior Olympics his freshman year. He is just one of many students who said they are affected by SanFilippo not being asked to coach in Montville for the first time in seven years.
The Montville Township Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried have said they are unable to comment on any personnel issues, legally.
SanFilippo said he is not sure why he was not asked to coach again, but was . Dozens of students, parents, coaches and athletes attended last week's meeting not bringing SanFilippo back. SanFilippo said he is overwhelmed by the support he has received.
"The support that I've gotten has been tremendous. The kids and the parents and members of the community and teachers of the high school have reached out," SanFilippo said. "From my perspective, I think that's great because it makes me feel like I belong."
He has been contacted by four other Morris County high schools in the past two weeks with coaching offers, although he has not accepted any yet.
SanFilippo, who has worked with Sanchez since eighth grade, said Montville's track program will suffer a "tremendous" loss with Sanchez transferring.
"The bulk of the rest of the kids are incoming sophomores," he said. "He was going to lead them through a lot of big things this year. To not have that level and caliber athlete around, it makes it hard for the young guys to have someone to look up to."
Head track coach Mark Philhower agreed.
"It's a loss because this past spring, Grant was county champion in two events, which is a really outstanding result. He has tremendous potential for growth," Philhower said.
But both Philhower and SanFilippo said Morris Hills has a strong track program and they expect continued success from Sanchez in his new school. Sanchez also said he is excited for "a change" in his senior year.
Sanchez' mother, Rocio Fernandez, said transferring her son was necessary after she heard SanFilippo would not be coaching in Montville this year. Within the past two weeks, Fernandez has not only enrolled Sanchez in a new school, but their family has also moved to Rockaway so that he can attend Morris Hills. Sanchez has been living in and attending Montville schools since fifth grade.
"I couldn't wait for the board to make the decision," Fernandez said. "I have to look out for what's best for my kid because, obviously, Montville is not going to give him what he needs."
Fernandez said she is aware of the effect transferring her son in his last year of high school can have. But she feels it was worth it to be able to give him the opportunities in track that she does not believe he would have at Montville without SanFilippo.
"I'm in education and I know that changing a kid in high school is not easy, but this is what I had to do for my son and I'll do whatever I have to do for my son to be succesful," she said.
Just as SanFilippo feels Sanchez transferring is a loss for Montville, Sanchez feels the absence of SanFilippo is Montville's loss as well.
"I think they're going to lose a great asset on their track team," he said. "He's been doing really well with the track team for years."