Track champs advance to state
May 12, 2009
Most people think of track and field as an individual sport rather than a team sport. But the athletes at Park City High know that’s far from the truth.
"The most important thing is team unity," says distance runner Sami Wall. "We push each other."
"We’re like family," adds Jessica Christjans.
During training, the runners rely on their teammates to pull them along, explains Gillian Gorelik. And in competitions, seeing your teammates cheering you on can give you an extra push toward the finish, she adds. "If you like each other, you want to win for your team."
Last week, Park City hosted the Region 10 championships, and the sense of family among team members proved to be a driving force behind the group’s success.
For the first time in seven years, the guys took first among Region 10 schools including Wasatch, Judge and Uinta. The girls also performed well, sliding into third place behind their region counterparts.
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"I was very pleased with their performance," says head coach Jeff Wyant. "They exceeded our expectations in virtually every event."
In distance running, the boys’ and girls’ teams dominated nearly every event. In both the boys’ and girls’ 800-meter run, the Miners sprinted into the top three spots, making a trail of red for the competition to follow toward the finish line.
The girls also placed in four of the top five spots in the 3200-meter run as well as the 1600-meter run. The boys filled the first- through third-place slots in the 3200 and the second- through fourth-place positions in the 1600.
Both teams also took first place in the sprint medley and second place in the 4×400-meter relay. Sprinters Erik Walker and Blake Thorne qualified for the 100- and 200-meter dashes and helped lead Park City to a first-place finish in the 4×100-meter relay.
To advance to the state finals, competitors must place in the top four at a regional qualifying event or meet the state qualifying time. Based on results from the region competition, Park City will send 22 athletes to the state championships this weekend at BYU. The group consists of a few seniors, several juniors and sophomores, and even a few freshmen, says Wyant.
Park City athletes Cameron Edwards, Erik Walker, Gillian Gorelik and MacKenzie Snyder qualified for more than the four events allowed per athlete, so they were able to choose which events they preferred to compete in.
Although the Miners’ participation in the state finals is heavily skewed in the distance running events, the team will also send competitors to the hurdling events, sprints, long jump and high jump.
The secret to the success of the distance runners, says Wyant, is year-round training. The kids get two weeks off per year, one after the track season ends and one after the cross-country season ends.
"We do it because it’s not worth it to try to get back into shape at this level," says Sami Wall.
"You can tell which teams train year-round and which don’t," adds Gorelik.
The runners also train in more adverse conditions than any other team in the state, Wyant speculates. "They are a dedicated, tough group," he says. "They’re in a different category [than other athletes]."
The team will practice every day this week but will taper off in mileage and intensity in order to give their bodies time to rest before Friday’s qualifiers and relay races.
The athletes also understand the importance of keeping stress levels down before the big event. "You just have to take care of yourself," says hurdler and long jumper Micah Sandusky.
Going into the finals, the Miners are focused on simply running as hard and fast as they can. And with a large contingent from the team traveling to the competition, the athletes can be sure of one thing: Their track family will be cheering them on every step of the way.