By Gregory Sorin
---- — The Cooperstown varsity boys and girls track and field teams are off and running with a group of young athletes. And as they enter into the 2013 spring sports season, many of these athletes are already reaching for sectional competition or school records.
In their first home meet on Saturday against New Hartford, athletes had to battle against the chill of reoccurring wintry conditions, the loss of a handful of their teammates to injuries, and (in the case of some events) lack of experience. As the athletes worked hard to stay warm and outperform their New Hartford competitors, this meet gave their coaches (Chuck Hollister for the boys and Connie Herzig for the girls) a chance to see where their strengths are, where their potential lies and what each individual needs to work a little harder on for later in the season.
“I’m excited about this team,” Herzig said. “The future of track in Cooperstown is looking great.”
Even though the team has just started practicing its jumping events recently, and it is very early in the season, Herzig knows: “We have young kids who are going to be very strong.”
Many of her athletes for this year are freshmen who have never competed at the varsity level before. And it will take those athletes a little time to learn the finer points of their events. But there are more experienced upperclassmen that will provide guidance, according to Herzig.
Lucy Ford, for example, a junior who specializes in high jump, has returned to the team after competing at the state level and placing fifth in all of New York. As one of the state’s best high jumpers, Ford attended a jumping clinic in New Jersey recently and “jumped better there than all of last year,” according to Herzig. She has a personal best of 5-4 and could have a good shot at the school record in the event. That is she has a chance at having the record all for herself. Ford shares the record with Liz Cunningham in 1989, Stephanie Smith in 2002, at 5-2.
Samantha Fanion, one of the team’s distance runners, is a unique case in the team’s talent. It isn’t often that eighth-graders are brought up to perform at the varsity level, but that is what happened for Fanion in the fall for the cross country team. And when she performed quite well, reaching eighth in the state, Herzig said she wanted her for the track team as well.
“This is an awesome bunch, no doubt about that,” Herzig said.
And the same seems to go for the boys team.
“We have a lot of kids where this is their first year doing varsity track,” said Hollister, echoing Herzig’s situation.
Hollister said he knows that his team will have to work on fundamentals such as how to use equipment like blocks for better starts in sprints and how to perform handoffs in relays, two spots in a race that can drastically change performance.
Although many of his athletes are new to varsity track, Hollister said he is confident that his team has some real speed to it and will perform well across the board.
He has Joe Harmon and Jimmie Scrafford who have qualified for sectionals in the 1600m and 3200m events respectively. And J. P. Gertz has already qualified in shotput and discus.
Hollister also noted that many of his other athletes are just a second or so away from qualifying in their events. And that includes some of his younger performers.
“We’re slowly working on everything,” Hollister said.
Hollister said he knows that his athletes have a lot of talent, and this season, he will work to draw that talent out and give the athletes the skills they need to win upcoming meets.
“Hopefully the weather will continue to improve and give this young group of athletes the chance to show their true potential,” he said.
The boys lost to New Hartford on Saturday, 102 to 24. The girls' meet was a scrimmage and no score was recorded.