Sporting some of the largest rosters of the year, and the only school sport in the spring season, Gruening and Mirror Lake Middle Schools are funneling an incredible number of students into track and field.
While the season started two weeks ago, indoor meets at The Dome are not scheduled until the second week of April. Area-wide coaches are doing their best to keep students interested until the meets begin.
First-year Gruening head coach Rachel Wall said the Colts currently field 140-plus athletes, with the largest portion contributed by eighth-grade boys. Other coaches include former head coach Jason Wall (long jump), Ryan Landers (shot and discus), Michelle Foss (sprints) and Ryan Clark (high jump).
Wall said the first two weeks had been in orienting athletes to the myriad of events, followed by some technical training. This week the coaches will be amassing time and distance trials as a tryout for particularly events.
The coach said the team has a good blend of students, some competitive, and others looking to better their lifestyle through better health practices and a more consistent exercise regimen.
“We have about 90 percent of our cross-country runners from last year out, along with a good number of skiers and basketball players,” she said. “Basically, we have a good mix of everything.
Mirror Lake Coyotes
Mirror Lake head coach Mitch Tarter said the seams are busting with the number of athletes currently out. “We’re at 202 – as of last Friday,” he said. With 6th, 7th and 8th graders at the school, numbers are always large, he said, with this year’s tally just short of the school’s all-time mark of 207 – set last year.
In 2013, the Coyotes placed first in overall district finish. The team would like to make it two in a row.
Tarter, who oversees all operations, has an experienced cadre of coaches, including Jerry Sather (long jump, triple jump, relays), Cynthia Anderson, Lindsey Burrington (hurdles), Danelle Jefson (distance), and Duncan Shackelford (shot and discus).
With the luxury of groomed ski trails on the school’s track, Tarter said the team has been able to get out to run most days helping greatly with the logistics of dispersing that many athletes for practice.
The coach said the team uses the main gymnasium and gymnastics rooms for much of the field events.
“We try to run in the halls as little as possible, because of shin splints due to the hard surface,” Tarter said.
The teams open against one another in a rare duel meet at The Dome on April 10.
Gruening’s Wall said many of the athletes for the two schools are good friends, competing on the same competition teams in other sports.
“Let’s call it a healthy rivalry – but friendly,” she said.