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

April 22, 2022

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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