As the sun sets on Haverford, most students are at home or practicing indoors. The winter track and field team has almost thirty minutes left of running, jumping, and throwing outside.
New Head Coach Mr. James Hawkins and Sixth Formers Colin Stewart and Ben Szathmary lead the team, as they tough out the elements and prepare for indoor events and the spring. For the Sixth Form runners, expectations are high.
“I’m looking for the winter track season to go pretty well,” Stewart said. “We have a new coach in Coach Hawkins who has both on his track club, through his athletes there, through his sons, and through this team so far has proven he’s a good coach and can produce great talent.”
With his experience in the AAU, Coach Hawkins has revamped the program, changing the training regime. Instead of separating the practice of sprinters and long-distance runners, everyone is in the same group. And the intensity of each practice has increased. Track workouts have overtaken practice runs, and ten-minute planks greet athletes at the end. Despite the grueling exercise, members have enjoyed their improvement.
Everyone pushes each other to work harder, and by the end of practice we’re all lying on the ground cryingJaiden shuchman ’23
“I’ve been enjoying [practice] only because it has allowed me to fully understand the difficulty of running at a higher level,” Fifth Former Jaiden Shuchman said. “Clearly we’re all getting better, all of our times are dropping, and we just got to work even harder to get there.”
Coach Hawkins also changed the meet schedule. The team only plans on attending a few competitions at Lehigh University instead of going weekly. Events at Ocean Breeze Complex in Staten Island and Armory Track in New York City fill the gaps. The reason for the modifications is simple.
“I changed up the meet schedule a little bit because I want them to experience running on a banked track where they will run if they make indoor states,” Coach Hawkins said. “The track at indoor states is a banked track; all the other track meets which are at Lehigh and Glen Mills, they are flat tracks, so it’s a totally different track that they’ll be running on.”
His goal of the state championships has influenced both the training and team culture.
“We are creating a system of recording our times that we do at practice so that we can monitor one another’s progress,” Coach Hawkins said. “So not just one athlete sees his progress but the whole team sees each other’s progress so they can pull each other up. Those that are doing really, really well, we continue to encourage them as a team, and those that need a little help, the team can see their actual struggle and also pull them up.”
Coach Hawkins has prioritized team camaraderie this season, and his system is working. Runners enjoy the solidarity at each practice and the healthy competition.
“Everyone pushes each other to work harder, and by the end of practice we’re all lying on the ground crying,” Shuchman said. “And that’s only because we want to do better than the person next to us, and I feel like that’s the only way to get better at track.”
Fun also has its place in the new program. The novelty of everything, from the terminology to the training approach, along with the COVID-19 hiatus, has complicated the return to the track. Coach Hawkins wants to keep it lighthearted to mitigate the shock of coming back.
Practices and improvement aside, the ultimate test of a successful season is competition results. And the team looks strong.
“My objective is to properly prepare them for what’s in front of them,” Coach Hawkins said. “I believe we’ll have a large number of our athletes making it to indoor states this year as long as we stay together as a team.”
These bonds between teammates, forged after school, will be tested at each and every competition, all season long. Szathmary looks forward to the challenge
Szathmary said, “The races are fast, the competition is good, the competition is fast.”
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