ATHLETE OF THE WEEK 02-20-2011
The legacy of Dickinson’s Veras grows and grows
Wins four HCTCA gold medals and adds two more NJSIAA state sectional titles
by Jim Hague
Feb 20, 2011 | 985 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dickinson senior track and field standout Jose Veras
Dickinson senior track and field standout Jose Veras
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It’s almost to the point where Dickinson High School senior Jose Veras really can’t achieve more than what appears on his already overloaded and burgeoning resume.

But the truth be told, Veras still has some of his final indoor season and all of the outdoor campaign to add to the litany of accomplishments that already place Veras among the greatest all-around track and field athletes to ever grace Hudson County boards and cinders.

Just when it was thought that Veras couldn’t amaze more than what he’s already done, he produces a week that will live forever in local folklore.

Veras merely won four gold medals at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships at the 168th Street Armory in New York, capturing the titles in the 800-meter run, the high jump, the long jump and the 55-meter hurdles. That alone shows his incredible versatility and diverse talents. It’s one thing to win four events. It’s another to win four events that are so totally unrelated to each other.

Veras also broke the county records in the 800-meter (1:55.9) and the high jump (6 feet, 6 inches). He won the long jump gold medal in his first competitive attempt at the event.

Veras’ 40-point explosion enabled Dickinson to capture the overall boys’ team championship for a second straight year.

But just a few days later, Veras went to the Bennett Center in Toms River to compete in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group IV championships. While there, Veras captured gold medals in the 800 and high jump. He now stands as a favorite to win two overall Group IV championships this weekend again in Toms River.

This comes on the heels of a sensational cross country season in a sport that really isn’t Veras’ strong suit.

And the amazing thing of it all is – he doesn’t think he’s good.

Scary, no?

“Really, I don’t think I am,” Veras said. “There are a lot of people who are better than me.”

Not in this county. Not for decades, if ever. The young man is carving out a legacy that has never before been equaled by a single track and field athlete, considering the diversity and considering the success.

“I don’t think I’m there yet,” Veras said. “I don’t believe it.”

When Veras was reminded of all the things he’s accomplished and all the events he’s won, he gave it a little.

“Well, when you put it like that,” Veras said. “I am really amazed by it all. But I do a lot of work as well. The coaches really push me hard and it works out for the best.”

For his incredible efforts, Veras has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.

While Veras isn’t so sure of his immense legacy, his coach, Leo Laboy, certainly knows it.

“He’s just something special,” Laboy said. “I’ve never seen anything like him.”

What makes Veras’ rise to immortality even more startling is that he’s only been competing in track and field for three years. He did not try out for the team as a freshman and only joined the team as a sophomore on a dare from a friend and current teammate.

“Nothing he does surprises me anymore,” Laboy said. “Nothing at all. Like last week, we put him in the long jump at the county championships just to see how he would do, because we want to enter him in some pentathlons in the nationals later this year. So we did it to get him some jumps and he goes and wins the event. He never did it before. Some athletes are able to double and triple up at a meet like the counties. Jose goes out and wins four. We took our chances with him in the long jump and he wins. It’s amazing.”

Laboy believes that Veras’ future lies within competing in pentathlons. While the event isn’t offered in New Jersey high school track and field meets, it is an event on the national level and in college. It’s not a bad way to get him ready for the years to come.

“I’ve already spoken to college coaches and they feel he’s perfect for it,” Laboy said of the pentathlon. “He is able to do what he does every single meet. It’s not just a one-shot deal. He does it every single time. That shows what kind of an athlete he is. It’s his passion. It’s what he wants to do. He never complains at all about doing all the events.”

In fact, if there weren’t rules preventing the amount of events Veras can compete in, he would do more.

“I want to do pentathlons,” Veras said. “It’s a lot of fun. I think it’s perfect for me. I just need a little work on my shot put. If I do that, maybe I’ll be pretty good.”

Veras likes his versatility.

“I never want to be someone who does just one event,” Veras said. “I want to do the four events. If I concentrated on just one event, there wouldn’t be a chance for me to get better. So why can I do four? Why not more?”

Laboy is a little stunned how Veras’ achievements aren’t better recognized and appreciated.

“He’s just a natural,” Laboy said. “I’ve been coaching for 10 years and I’ve never seen anything like him. Other coaches tell me the same thing, that they’ve never seen an athlete like Jose. It’s really sad that he doesn’t get more recognition. It’s always been a little mind boggling to me that he doesn’t get recognized more. I think people realized he was good, but they’re now starting to recognize him more.”

Laboy likes Veras’ intensity.

“He always thinks he can do better and that’s great,” Laboy said. “He’s not just a great athlete, but he has such a great attitude. He’s always willing to help others out, coaching the younger kids. That’s the kind of kid he is. He’s definitely the best all-around athlete in Hudson County and sometimes that just gets overshadowed for whatever reason. But Jose is a blessing.”

Veras is excited about the chances of winning overall state championships this weekend.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Veras said. “I’ve never done it before. If I could win one, that would be great. If I could win two or three, well, that would be even better.”

All in all, Veras can’t comprehend all that has happened to him during his brilliant career.

“I never dreamed all of this could happen,” Veras said. “I’m really amazed by it all.”

So is everyone else, because Jose Veras is truly a once-in-a-lifetime performer. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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