First day of track practice. The team of 70 plus girls, made up of mostly sophomores and freshmen, look around for upperclassmen whose example they can follow during their warm-up. Although there are a few of them scattered around, there aren’t nearly enough to compensate for the number of new runners on the team this year. After losing about a fifth of the whole team to graduation last year, only six girls on this year’s generally inexperienced team are returning seniors.
A number of new upperclassmen along with freshmen have joined the team for the first time, and the team has already worked on developing cohesiveness through preseason conditioning.
“[The team] has been running together and training together,” said senior Maddie Willson, who ran track her freshman and junior years. “I think [the new team members] will be successful, and even though it’s something new that they’re trying, they have that bond going already, which always helps.”
As with any team, an experienced and respected senior class is a major asset to their success and relationship as a team, especially to underclassmen. Sophomores Libby Petrie, Julia Kapros and Peyton Hassenflu looked up to many of last year’s seniors, and tried to push themselves to keep up to the standard that the seniors set.
“I think they created an atmosphere where you felt comfortable asking questions,” Hassenflu said. “Like during warm ups when you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re confused, you can look at someone [for help] and I think that’s always very important aspect to have as part of a team.”
Coach Ron Stallard agrees that it is important to make people comfortable on the team and know that they have people they can look up to.
“My experience has been that age or years on a team doesn’t always equate to effective leadership,” Stallard said. “Leadership comes about because teammates build relationships and learn to trust each other. We did lose a little to graduation last year, but I’m certain that people will step up and fill those roles.”
The majority of last year’s seniors, as well as many of the classes before them, were state contenders on a consistent basis. One event suffering major losses is the 4×400 relay, which lost three of their four runners.
According to sophomore Katie MacAdam, even though the team lost a lot of leaders with last year’s graduating class, having a good number of people joining is a good thing regardless of experience because most of the other teams they compete against are much larger.
“At the end of the day I just think that track is a sport that you want to have the numbers in, so if we’re going to have inexperienced people coming in, we’re just going to have to work with them,” MacAdam said.
Freshman Lucy Hoffman, while nervous for the season, is hopeful for success and already knows some upperclassmen, including several who are doing track for the first time. As a freshman, she hopes for other people she can look up to, and anticipates that there will be people willing to step into those roles.
One upperclassman new to the team is junior Libby Wilson, who has run cross country throughout high school but has never gone out for track. Having been a leader in cross country, she hopes that will carry over into track and that she will be able to step up despite it being new to her.
“It’ll be a little weird because there aren’t really that many experienced upperclassmen,” Wilson said. “And I’ll have that responsibility, I guess, without ever having done it in the past, but I’m excited.”
Stallard has high hopes for this season in spite of the somewhat unique circumstances.
“From what I’ve seen so far this preseason, we have some great athletes joining us,” he said. “This includes not only freshmen, but girls from other sports that see the advantages of running track and field. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great athletes and teams in the past and I have the feeling that this year will be one that stands out.”