MIDDLETOWN – Brianna Haspel loves to run and has spent her scholastic career competing for a school she doesn’t attend.
While that might sound a bit unorthodox, it came about because Haspel, who will be running at Rutgers University next season, attended the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, (M.A.S.T), located in Sandy Hook. Because the school does not have a track team, students, like Haspel, are permitted to participate in sports for their home district high school.
“I would have attended Middletown South if M.A.S.T. didn’t allow me to compete in track at South,” Haspel said. “My older sister, Kelly, (who was a M.A.S.T student) and my mom recommended that I go there.”
Haspel has not regretted her decision to attend school at M.A.S.T.
“I went there because of the academics and the teachers,” said Haspel, who competed in softball, track and soccer while a student at Thompson Middle School. “It was difficult to get in because you have to take a test and only the top 10 scores qualify. They used to take only a few people from each town.
“There are only 300 students at M.A.S.T with about 15 students in each class, and the teachers can give you extra attention,” she said.
Haspel did well in the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meters events in both indoor and outdoor track with the 800 being her best event. She won the event in the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group III meet in both her junior and senior seasons.
“I guess running makes me happy,” the 18-year-old said. “I enjoy it because it makes me feel strong and in shape.”
She runs an average of 5 miles a day and finds that her favorite place to do her daily workouts is Thompson Park in Lincroft. “They have all different trails there. You can run on pavement, gravel, grass and dirt and I like that.”
Haspel comes from a family of runners – her mother’s brothers and sisters were runners, so are her cousins and sister – and she began competing seriously when she was in the sixth grade and joined the track team at Thompson Middle School.
Because of her success in middle school it was important for her to run in high school. Her sister, Kelly, was a senior at M.A.S.T. and running for Middletown South when Haspel was a freshman so she had a good role model of how to go to school in one location and compete in another.
“I enjoy racing competitively. I’m a competitive person,” she said.
Her best event is 800 meters “because it is between the sprints and the 1600,” she said.
The highlight of Haspel’s scholastic track career came in her junior year when the Eagles placed second in the NJSIAA Outdoor Meet of Champions 4 X 800-meter relay with a school record of 9:17.
Despite being the fastest runner, Haspel was the first runner off the blocks for her team and was followed by Christiana Rutkowski, Sylvie Evarts and Cassidy Weimer.
“We led off with Brianna because she was our top runner and could stay with the top runners,” South girls track coach Scott Clifton said. “Brianna was one of the mainstays of our team and was always wanting to get better.”
Since the team was comprised of all juniors, Haspel was hoping for even better results as a senior, but that didn’t happen. “One of our runners was injured and our times weren’t as good this season.”
Haspel’s time at M.A.S.T. was temporarily halted by Super Storm Sandy in October 2012. Like the other areas at the Shore, Sandy Hook was hit hard by Sandy, and M.A.S.T. wasn’t spared.
“There were 11 buildings at the school, and nine of them were badly damaged,” she said. ”There was about 4 feet of water in the buildings.”
As a result, the classes were switched to St. Joseph’s Grammar School in Keyport for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year.
“It was uncomfortable there because there was no air conditioning and the rooms were small,” Haspel said. “We finally returned to M.A.S.T in August” of 2013.
Haspell played basketball at South during her freshman and sophomore seasons, but gave up the sport halfway through her junior year to concentrate on running.
Haspel excelled academically at M.A.S.T with an average of 90. She was a member of the Key Club, Spanish Club and the Spanish Honor Society.
She decided to continue running while attending in college during her high school junior year. Like many high school student-athletes, she had a bit of a lull during senior year when she thought about ending her scholastic running career. She decided, however, “I still have some left in me” and is looking forward to competing for the Scarlet Knights.
Haspel expects to major in business while attending Rutgers.
“I chose Rutgers because of its academics and I got some financial aid for track,” she said. “It was also close to home. After I graduate, I would like to work in the City and do marketing and TV public relations.”
She also expects that her college career won’t end her quest to compete. “I enjoy racing. I love to compete,” she said.