by Georgia Norton/Lion Staff
While it might be slow-going in the carpool lane, it’s full speed ahead in the lanes on Lovett’s red track, where athletes, both old and new, are preparing for another competitive season.
This year, the track and field team welcomes a large crowd of freshmen, many of whom also participated in cross country last fall. According to Stuart Ingram, a senior on the team who runs mid-long distance and is currently 5th in state for the the 800m and 3rd for both the 3200 and 1600m runs, there are a lot of talented underclassmen who are “going to be great when they're seniors, because they are front-loaded and deep.” This means that they’re competitive with the top runners of other teams, and even those who aren't in Lovett’s top rankings are still strong compared to their opponents.
She specifically mentioned freshman Sydney Lamberson, someone who she “really looks up to on the track.” Stuart continued that Sydney has been “putting in the work since cross country,” and that she is “so impressed with [Sydney’s] persistence.” Though it’s only her first year on the high school team, Sydney is already the 2nd in state for the 3200m, 3rd in the 1600m, and 8th in the 800m.
Coach Mayer pointed out many athletes as well, including Aiden Camillo, who sprints the 400 meter, Aaron McFadden, a 300 meter hurdler, McLeod Buckham White, a 100 and 200 meter sprinter, and Madison Maxell, who is currently first in state for her division in the Triple Jump with a record of just over 36 feet.
With these impressive feats this early into the season, Coach Mayer said that “We are really looking like we can make some noise on the state level.”
Though the team is packed with talent, the athletes train hard enough so that even someone with no prior running, throwing, or jumping experience can develop into a notable athlete. According to Stuart, Coach Mayer, who has been the track coach for the past seven years, meticulously plans each of their rigorous practices.
“Let's just say that I've never left track practice thinking ‘that was easy’,” she said. “[Coach] Mayer always pushes us out of our comfort zones. A typical week for the distance team includes a meet, two workouts, which is basically sprinting a bunch of miles, a regular run of 4-6 miles, and a long run, usually around 8-10 miles.”
All of Coach Mayer’s planning ensures that each practice helps the team get where they need to be. She values that he works as hard as his athletes, planning each of their individual workouts and race paces. “My friend who goes to Dunwoody [High School] doesn't even have a track coach, so I'm incredibly thankful for [Coach] Mayer. He always puts the team first.”
The sport really is about the kids, and when I asked Coach Mayer about his favorite part of coaching, his answer came without hesitation.
“This one is easy,” he said. “I love the relationships. I love giving back to a sport and sharing the sport with others. Cross country and track changed me as a person, and my [high school] coach changed me.” His goal is to have the same influence on his athletes as his coach had on him.
Coach Mayer’s relationship with each athlete is truly unique, and he is even the one who convinced Stuart to transition from soccer, her sport of twelve years, to track two years ago after taking note of her impressive cross country season.
As we continued our conversation, the coach admitted that his hopes for the team are lofty.
“Ha... I am a dreamer and have a hard time reeling in my goals... so I have some pretty high expectations for the program,” he admitted, “so I will try to put this as simply as I can. My primary goal is that kids continue to find their way to the team and find a ‘home’ of sorts. Kids should be involved in something, and I think that Track and Field is a great metaphor for life beyond sports.” He elaborated, saying that “We have a lot of skills coming together and everyone has a job they have to do. When we put all of those parts together, we make a team [that accomplishes] goals.”
And even though he is proud of the school records and championships that the kids have earned since he has been here, he is more proud to see others inspired by those stories and not being be afraid “to go get some of that themselves.” According to Coach Mayer, it’s “the kids who continue to build on the tradition we have started.”
So, as the runners dig their spikes into that red track of ours, hearts pounding, muscles tense, and await the starting gun, we too will watch anxiously to see what incredible feats this year’s athletes can accomplish, both individually and as a team.