The girls’ and boys’ track and field teams competed in the Eastern Relays, an invitational meet that hosted a variety of teams from the eastern region of the country, on April 21 and April 22 at the University of Louisville’s Cardinal Park Soccer and Track Stadium.
Manual’s boys’ team placed 11th overall out of more than 60 participating schools while the girls’ team placed 12th out of a pool of more than 50.
Track and field coaching staff and competitors thought the meet was a useful opportunity to allow the team to compete with stronger competition on a national level.
“I think that the meet in general was a great experience for the team,” said Alena Sapienza-Wright (11, YPAS), who competed in the girls’ 3200 meter and 1600 meter races. “Everyone got to run against some high level opposition in a very competitive atmosphere.”
“The meet isn’t really important as a team in that we don’t really set team goals for how we’re going to perform because it involves teams from so many states,” said Coach Tim Holman , “but it’s really important from a development standpoint because the kids get to run against really high level competition.”
One of the major highlights of the Eastern Relays was Yared Nuguse’s (12, MST) mile time of four minutes and 21 seconds coupled with his performances in the boys’ 800 meter and 3200 meter races, allowing him to complete “the distance triple,” said Holman. Nuguse currently holds the record for the sixth fastest mile time in the nation with a mile time of four minutes and 12 seconds.
“I was most proud of my [performance in the] 3200 meter race,” said Nuguse, “I ran a great time despite not running the event for a long time.”
Nuguse, who was named the Gatorade cross country player of the year for the state of Kentucky, committed to continue his cross country career with the University of Notre Dame.
“I hope to push myself academically and athletically,” said Nuguse. “Notre Dame provides great opportunities for both, where I can be a student at a great university while being a D1 [Division One] athlete.”
The meet coincided with a series of rainstorms and low temperatures, and several athletes attributed a strain in performance to this weather.
“Towards the end of the meet, I was getting tired of the rain and everything being soaked, and coming out of the blocks was difficult because they were kind of slippery,” said Casey Kohlstruk (11, HSU), a short-distance runner for the girls’ 400 meter and 200 meter relays and individual races.
“When it’s cold and rainy, you have to wear more stuff, and that limits me when I stretch,” said Keon Farris (11, MST), who competed in the boys’ long jump and triple jump while additionally filling in as an alternate for a 4-person 100 meter relay. “You have to be extra warm before you do any events because if you’re not, you’re not going to do your best. And it makes everything harder because you’re thinking about the weather while you’re running or jumping.”
The track and field coaching staff and team had been preparing for this meet extensively, many of the athletes citing their consistent, five practices a week as beneficial to their performances.
Depending on the event in which each athlete competes, these practices necessitate students to work different workouts with one or more of the specialized coaches. The coaching staff consists of the head coach, Mike Kuntz; distance coach, Holman; sprints, hurdles and relays coach, Shauna Johnson; horizontal jump coach, Ed Burton; vertical jump coach, Barry Kornstein; and throws coach Teresa Zebrowski.
“We started preparing for this meet back in January when practices started,” Sapienza-Wright said. “Hard work and focus is how you prepare for any meet, and everyone on the team brings both of those things to practice everyday.”
“At practice we do a lot of workouts with little rest between sets to help us get stronger,” said Kohlstruk, “and we also practice starts and hand offs. I mentally prepare by visualizing myself winning the race.”
“I first made sure I had five layers of clothes on,” Farris said, “all week I thought about and prepared for the meet, and before I went to jump, I just mentally focused myself on the task at hand.”