Grayling track program, with ‘dedicated group,’ gets ready for 2017 season
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The varsity boys and girls track and field team – a squad that will compete in its first meet of the 2017 spring season next week – has more than 30 athletes this year.
“Twenty-two boys, 11 girls. These numbers are average for both teams combined,” Coach Justin Andre said. “We have a few new faces this year, but for the most part we have a dedicated returning group of runners. It will be tough for us to fill all of the 17 events, but we will do our best to position athletes in an event that they will be the most competitive in.”
Andre and Michelle Moore are both back as coaches of the track program.
Andre said Coach Moore worked with a few of the athletes during the winter “as part of our Grayling Indoor Track Club,” which helped them get ready for the spring 2017 campaign.
“We had five athletes participate at various indoor meets getting ready for the outdoor season,” Coach Moore said.
The Vikings started their official practice sessions for the upcoming season on Monday, March 13. The squad used the weight room, the hallways at Grayling High School, and the upstairs area in the gymnasium to work out, run, and work on throwing, respectively, during the first two weeks of practice. Some of the athletes were able to run outside on a limited basis; distance runners used the Grayling Bicycle Turnpike and the sprinters got on the track at Viking Stadium for some running.
(Track meets consist of sprinting events, distance running events, relay running, hurdles, high jump and long jump, pole vaulting, shot put, and discus throwing.)
“As a team in whole, we are working a lot on conditioning and weight training indoors, since the weather has not been cooperative for our sprinters, throwers, and jumpers; however, our middle distance and distance runners have been bundling up and have been putting in some miles on the Wayne Koppa Trail,” Coach Andre said.
The track squad practiced for two weeks prior to spring break. Coaches said the early sessions went well despite the limitations due to weather conditions.
“So far practices have been going well. Our junior (and) senior returnees have really stepped up and have assumed leadership roles, helping to keep practices organized and efficient,” Coach Andre said.
The Vikings had a couple of state qualifiers last year, and one of them – Ellie Carr, a sophomore who made the state meet at shot put – is back for another season. Coach Andre said the squad was able to take several athletes to the state meet as spectators last year, and he thinks that will be valuable experience going into this year.
“Our biggest strength right now is the determination to improve. We have seen a really dedicated group of kids this year. We had a few travel with us to the state meet last year, and they are bringing that great experience back and have been the leaders in getting this year’s group excited and motivated for the upcoming season,” Coach Andre said.
Goals for the 2016 season? Steady improvement. Be ready for regionals, and perform well enough there to get a few state qualifiers.
“Our goals are to continuously improve, week by week, and have strong individual and relay finishes at each event that we attend,” Coach Andre said. “We need to focus on having strong finishes in all the events that we can field. It will be tough for us to win as a team since we have smaller numbers. It is important that each individual athlete do the best they can, and continue to improve as the season goes on. As coaches our goal is to prescribe a workout regimen that allows these runners (and) throwers (and) jumpers to peak at our MHSAA regional meet in hopes to earn a qualifying spot to the MHSAA state finals,” Coach Andre said.
“We have a few returning athletes who should be competitive at regionals,” Coach Moore said. “This year the foreign exchange students are going to help lead the way. Jacopo will be leading the way in the 110 hurdles. He comes to us from Italy with hurdling experience. During the indoor season he ran a state qualifying time for the 60-meter hurdles. Felix gained good indoor experience for the 400 meter run. I’m looking forward to see what they can do outside with the rest of the team,” Coach Moore said.
The Lake Michigan Conference usually has a few schools with full teams. The Vikings might not have the overall athlete numbers to put up team scores that rival the bigger programs in the league, but Grayling should have some strong individual placements this year.
“We have a very strong league with a lot of established programs. I feel that Grayling will be able to compete well in the events that we can fill,” Coach Andre said.
The Vikings will compete in a League Jamboree at East Jordan on Wednesday, April 12. On Monday, April 17, Grayling will compete in a conference meet at Kalkaska.