Photo courtesy of the 1974 Morris Catholic Yearbook
By Steve Sears
Tom Donahue was only a Cross-Country Head Coach at Morris Catholic High School from 1972 through 1978.
But what he and his team accomplished in that short period, especially in 1974 and 1975, was astounding. The 1974 and 1975 clubs won the New Jersey Meet of Champions, becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles. They also finished each season ranked #1 in New Jersey. The team also won five consecutive Parochial B titles from 1974 to 1978.
“Oh God, they were over the top good,” says Donahue, especially of the top ranked teams. “In the year 2000, The Star-Ledger, which covers the entire state, decided to name in every sport the team of the century. And Morris Catholic was named the team of the decade in the entire state for the 1970s.”
Prior to Donahue’s arrival, Morris Catholic had participated in thirteen seasons of Cross-Country, never having a winning season, always finishing below .500. In the following seven seasons, the club went undefeated in dual meets for seven years in a row. “That’s the first thing,” says Donahue. “The second thing was the first year they went undefeated in dual meets and won their league championship, which was the Paterson Diocesan Regional League. The second year, they won the Morris County title, but they didn’t win the state title, which kind of surprised me. For the last five years, they won numbers two through six in their county titles, they won five straight Parochial B titles, and two of those years they shut out the rest of the state in Parochial B.”
Donahue says the 1974 and 1975 clubs were special. “They were just all in,” he says, citing especially David Lamm (“Legendary,” he says), Marty Moratz, and Kevin Molteni among those who put the program “over the top.” “Totally committed,” Donahue says of the three and the rest of the team members. “And you have to have some talent; you can’t be talent-less.” Donahue is also quick to point out that Lamm, the Captain of the 1974 squad, was not a runner, but a JV wrestler in a low weight class. In fact, he inherited quite a few of his runners from that realm. “Many of them (wrestlers) wear rubber suits and run continuous laps around the school to make weight. So, these kids are incredibly disciplined. They adapted very easily. And as soon as they got success, they were mine. So, David Lamm was a wrestler, and became just a tremendous runner.”
“I was on the ‘74 and ‘75 teams,” says Molteni. “I was a sophomore in ‘74. The camaraderie on that team was special, and the upperclassman talent was deep. ‘75 brought the pressure to continue the legacy with a younger band of characters. Somehow, we pulled it off. The word ‘Dynasty’ entered the campus lexicon.”
Donahue ran with the team almost every day and, according to Molteni, was faster than any of his runners. “He trained us hard and, out there on long runs, and during interval training at the edge of the anaerobic threshold, we transcended pain, and both honed our fitness, and forged our mental toughness.” Donahue, 70, and a member of the Morris Catholic Hall of Fame, was a 1971 graduate of Manhattan College who also took part in that school’s famed Cross-Country program. “TD (Tom Donahue) was well coached, and he applied that knowledge to our adolescent forms,” adds Molteni. “He gave us confidence to believe in our fitness, and mental toughness, and challenged us to employ those hard-earned weapons against our competition on the way to the finish line.”
“Morris Catholic’s rise to the top of the state was, at the time, kind of a shock to the other 35 (Morris County) high schools,” explains Donahue, “because it never even had a winning season. I was able to get the kids to come out for the team in the early ‘70s. And the fact that we won six-consecutive county titles in Cross-Country as the smallest high school in the county was kind of unique.”
Molteni, now a pediatrician in Oregon, recalls that, after the 1975 season, the school purchased windbreaker jackets for the team with a custom logo that read:
“It’s a pretty sweet memory,” says Molteni. “Thanks, Tom Donahue.”