A New Coach, A New Division, and A New Track

Georgia Norton

“The steeplechase hurdles are really heavy, though,” she said, “so if you hit one like you might in a regular meet it won’t knock over, you’ll just face plant into the water.” 

As Spring officially begins, so does the track season, and this year’s athletes are gearing up for what they hope will be an incredible season, as always. Fortunately,  Covid hasn’t greatly impacted them, and with a new coach, a new division, and a new track, the athletes are looking forward to a season of firsts, in every sense.

While track is an incredibly diverse sport, with events ranging from the shotput to long-distance relays, all the athletes are working hard. According to long-distance runner Henry Haden, distance practice includes easy days, which consist of 5 mile runs into stride work, and workout days, which typically entail 12-16 400 meter sprints and varied speed and endurance workouts. It sounds like a lot, but Henry said most long-distance runners are also on the cross country team, so they’re used to it.

Though they cover lots of mileage, Henry said the distance team rarely goes to the weight room, unlike sprint and strength competitors. “Short distance spends a lot of time in the weight room,” he said, “but we mostly stay outside.”

So far, this training has been paying off. Henry told me that the team had “42 personal records broken at the Mceachern meet earlier this season, won one meet overall, and have a lot people improving,” which he said was a pleasant surprise since the team had to take an extended break after spring break due to the number of students in quarantine. The team is now in 2A instead of the 3A division, so the competition has been different but still tough. Henry also made a point of also pointing out a teammate, mentioning that Hunt Shearling has had a great season so far. 

Margaret Anne Coleman, another senior on the distance team who’s been on varsity for 4 years, has also had a few exciting moments this year. Margaret Anne broke her personal best mile time at 5:47 (though she says she ran an even faster one, but it was in practice, not a meet, so she doesn’t count it) and mentioned that her teammate Sydney Lamberson--who was last cross country’s season state champion--broke 5:22. 

Margaret Anne also had the unique opportunity to try a steeplechase event, which typically isn’t offered in high school divisions. Steeplechase involves jumping over hurdles into pools of water while racing 5 laps around the track, “like horses do--that’s where the name comes from,” she explained. “The steeplechase hurdles are really heavy, though,” she said, “so if you hit one like you might in a regular meet it won’t knock over, you’ll just face plant into the water.” 

Though Margaret Anne and her racing partner Laine Barnwell had never practiced steeplechase before (she informed me that they attempted to practice by jumping over a bench into the sandpits but it didn’t really work) they did really well. “Everyone was expecting us to do really poorly,” she explained, “it was kind of just a funny thing, but we actually did kinda good. We were the only people who hurdled over all of them, the other girls were like stepping on them and stuff.”

As for the rest of the season, Henry is excited to hopefully break the school record for the 4x8m relay record, and maybe also the 4x16m. He broke one record his sophomore year, but he’s hoping to do it again. He also says that they believe they’ll get quite a few guys and girls to state this year.

Henry and Margaret Anne are both excited for Lovett to hold their first home meet this Wednesday on their brand new track, too. “We just got a new track last fall,” Henry said. He claims it affects performance and is noticeably “springier, and much higher quality. It’s been fun to mess around on it.”

Meets this year have gone pretty much as usual; though the athletes do have to wear masks up to the start line, they don’t have to wear them as they run or anything, just like during the cross country season. 

While Covid hasn’t impacted them much, they are attending new meets since they’re in a new division (“divisions are based on school size,” Henry explained, not performance). They’ve still gone to a few of the same invitationals, like the Marist one, but are also competing against some new, smaller schools. Their biggest competition? Pace, as it was during the cross country season.

One drawback of this season though is that the team hasn’t been together quite as much. With different grades going into quarantine and differing workout schedules, Henry said he doesn’t see the other divisions as much. But, Margaret Anne added that while this is true, the team dynamic is still great and she still feels close with everyone, even if they don’t spend as much time together. 

This year, the team also has a new head coach, Coach Casper. “He used to do football, now he and Coach Mayer also do track,” Margaret Anne explained. Though he’s new, she assured me that “everyone really likes him and he’s really good.” 

Margaret Anne is optimistic about this season and is expecting to end on a high note when they go to state, but she hasn’t even considered what it’ll be like when it’s over. “I’ve been on the varsity team for four years now, so I think I’ll be really sad when the season’s over, but I haven’t really thought about it. I haven't registered that it’s my last season at all.” 

Right now, she says that “the idea of going to college or graduating is like impossible to think about, it still seems so far off.” She’s still waiting to hear back from a few schools and is beginning her senior project and preparing for AP exams, so it’s hard for her to think about other things, much less picture what life will be like in a year. All in all though, she says she’s just going to “take it one step at a time” and focus on what’s in front of her now instead of worrying too much about the future. 

So, the athletes are feeling good as this season begins. With the metaphorical starter pistol fired and the season officially begun, the athletes are sprinting full-force to the finish line and hoping to take first, but they’re also stopping to smell the roses. After a hard year, everyone’s optimistic that things might be heading back in the direction of ‘normal,’ and with the hopeful end of the pandemic on the horizon, a new division, a new track, and a new coach, the team is feeling ready to take on a fresh start.
The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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