A day at practice with Spartan Track and Field

April 22, 2022


Annie Zhang

SPONTANEOUS SPRINTING: The sprinters prepare to take off and run the 200.

Spartan track is one of the biggest spring teams at SPA, with many new members every year. But why join track?

“I just like running in general. I also wanted to give school sports a try and I didn’t want to do tennis because I am bad at tennis,” says freshman Theo Su, a new member of SPA’s track team.

“I like to do sprints, and also to spend time with my friends outside,” says eighth grader Clare Ryan-Bradley, a new member to the team.

Before the team heads outside to the track, the team huddles together in a circle to discuss what will happen in the next hour. Excitement from the newer members is followed by silent groans of veteran members after hearing what is to come. The team hurries outside, trying to make the most of their hour and a half and begins warming up in lines, led by the captains. They skip, walk on their toes, and jump..anything to stretch their muscles out and avoid potential injuries.

I just like running in general. I also wanted to give school sports a try and I didn’t want to do tennis because I am bad at tennis.

— freshman Theo Su, a new member of SPA’s track team

The team then moves on to a very particular walk with an emphasis on starting on the heels and shifting their weight to their toes. Heel, to toe, heel, to toe.

“Hey hey, no pictures while we do the penguin walk!” A senior calls out.

As the team goes through warmups, older members always make sure to give their younger counterparts words of encouragement along with fist bumps.

“We definitely have that team spirit of cheering the team on when someone or a group of our members are running in a race and I guess at the end, we also just give them a high five,” Sophomore Nora Shaughnessy says.

Now this is where the team splits; distance runners are sent to do their two mile warm ups while sprinters are asked to get on the cone line. First, the sprinters are starting with 100m and will gradually increase the distance after every run. The boys will go first. They drag themselves to the line and prepare to take off.

“And..go!” Coach Kyes calls out.

The boys launch themselves forward, pushing off their back foot and speed through the track, as Coach Donnelly meets them at the end, calling out times as each runner finishes. The boys are tired, but nonetheless are ready to cheer on the girls when they finish.

“And, go!” Coach Kyes calls out once more.

The girls charge through the track and start approaching the end. Filled with cheers and applause from the boys, they finish strong and begin the cooldown walk around the rest of the track. Everyone is tired, but they continue to push forward. They can do this. As the team concludes their cooldown, they hurry to get water before their five minute break is up.
Coach Kyes begins to head over and announces that they will be doing the same thing, but at a longer distance. The newer members’ faces drop, slightly nervous for what is about to happen. However, the older runners reassure them that it will be alright.

“I was nervous about racing, and like getting to my events on time during the races.” says freshman Helen Townley who’s been doing SPA track since she was in fifth grade, and has learned to handle nervousness

Other members share their funny stories to relieve some of the nerves.

“In middle school, they would always send us like, eighth graders on long runs by ourselves. And most of the time, we just ran to the duck pond at St. Kate’s and then just sat there for a while and then ran back. But one time, someone brought cookies and they shoved them under their shirt. So we ran to the duck pond and ate cookies and then ran back. Then one time, we went to Nelson’s and got ice cream,” Captain Divya Bhargava said.

The nervous tension begins to die down.

“Alright guys, let’s go again!” Coach Kyes hollers.

The boys get on the line again and continue the last drill. The same drill repeats for another two times with the distance increasing each time. Eventually, the drill finishes with each sprinter gasping for air and chugging water. In the distance, they make out a group of students jogging towards the track. The distance runners have returned.

The sprinters go back to Huss to cool down and stretch while the distance runners begin their time on the track. They stroll slowly, legs aching, and still trying to catch their breath. As they make it back, the sprinters must split up once again.

“If you want to do hurdles, come here! And if you want to try long jump, go over there!” Coach Kyes directs.

The practice ends with the team stretching together, chatting about anything and everything.

Weather: 0, Track Team: 1, how Spartan track and field perseveres despite weather challenges

At last, the sun peeks through the clouds as members of St. Paul Academy and Summit School’s (SPA) track and field team walk down to the track on Monday afternoon. Many of their meets and practices have been canceled due to recent weather conditions, but smiles and laughter still emanate from the large group of runners. If anything, the lack of consistency has made team members even more excited for the new season.
“I think the team is just looking forward to being together….everyone’s looking forward to the first meet and seeing what happens,” said junior Becca Richman, a longtime member of the SPA track team. That first meet took place on April 21st, just three weeks away from the championship meets, which isn’t ideal. “It’s better if you can have some meets [beforehand], and give people a chance to compete and see what they can do,” said assistant coach Rob Donnelly. But a lack of meets hasn’t changed the way that the coaches approach this season, as coach Donnelly emphasized that “Our goal every year is to try to get as many people at the highest level. If we can get people to the state meet, that’s what we like to do.”
Aside from competing in meets, team members are also excited to bring back several team traditions, as last year’s season didn’t allow for them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A favorite tradition of many team members is the stretch circle in Huss after practice, which now includes fun go-arounds, a ritual that has helped the team grow closer. But for senior Marie Schumacher, the best team tradition includes something a little sweeter.
“It’s a tradition to run to Jamba Juice at the end of the season. Last spring ended with a heatwave, so we ran to Jamba when it was in the high 90s. It was really nice to get a cold smoothie and walk back with friends,” she said.
New traditions have also been added to the mix, with seniors Henry Burkhardt and Jack Hlavka wearing brightly colored leis on all of their long-run days.
This season has also challenged runners like Richman to try out new events, or entirely different running distances. She said, “I’m a sprinter this year. I’m looking forward to running my first sprinting race. I have no idea what to expect [and] no idea how it’s going to go, which is really refreshing coming from being in this sport for so long.” For Burkhardt, everything is new this season, as he’s a new addition to the team. “I’ve always done cross country, and I got convinced that I should continue my running career,” he said, “I’m looking forward to our first meet because I’ve never raced track before”.
But how different could track and cross country really be, it’s just running, right? Wrong. As previously alluded to, there are two types of runners in track: sprinters and distance runners, and different preparations and events that come with each. Sprinters train more for speed than they do endurance, as the most they will ever have to run for an event is one full lap around the track. Distance runners, on the other hand, are primarily focused on endurance, as their events require them to run multiple laps around the track. Yes, speed is important if a distance runner wants to win their event, but they need to know how to pace themselves or control that speed so that they don’t get burnt out halfway through their event.

It’s a tradition to run to Jamba Juice at the end of the season. Last spring ended with a heatwave, so we ran to Jamba when it was in the high 90s…

— Marie Schumacher

While, yes, track and field is a competitive sport and the team is always focused on improving, this competitive nature doesn’t detract from the group’s inclusive and supportive dynamic, a factor that keeps team members coming back year after year. “I love the team and the atmosphere we create and how encouraging everyone is,” Richman said, “I think we have a really good group of role models and also just a really positive [team] culture.” Seniors Marie Schumacher and Naomi Straub echoed these thoughts, saying that “the people” are what they will miss most about track when they go off to college. “…I feel like I’ve gotten to know the other distance runners really well,” Schumacher said, “I’ll miss running with great people.”

Conference relays will take place on Apr. 28 at Blake.

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