Track team is an example of choices for high school athletes

By KEVIN DONALDSON

The Clay County High track team had an unprecedented level of success and participation this past season, driving home the point there are a lot more sports around for high school athletes than in the old days.

For those of us 50 and older, the avenues of participation were quite limited at the high school level. Basically, male athletes had football and basketball, and females had a single outlet–basketball. 

There were times when baseball and track made brief appearances in the pre-1980 days, but it was a hit or miss thing.  How times have changed, especially in the past decade or so.

The track team, rekindled two seasons ago by coach Richard Franklin and coached this past year by Luke Collins, competed very well in 2008 and 2009 and at one time or another this past season, had a whopping 30 participants. There was a time when numbers like that were reserved only for the football team. 

Track is basically the latest in a line of sports that have been added through the years. Softball and baseball joined the scene for good in the 1980’s. Tennis, which at different times has seen a high level of success by individual players (including a state tournament participant), came along next, and was followed by golf. The most recent additions are track and volleyball, with a bowling team for a brief time a few years ago. If I’m forgetting a sport, please forgive my failing memory.

 

Track team success

There have been track participants before in Clay County, but usually only individuals, some of whom competed at a very high level. The only state championship won at the high school level in the county is in track, by Rob Holston (Celina High School), circa 1990.

This year’s team enjoyed some good times. The boys team beat all the Class A teams they competed against this year, Collins said. Most track meets include multiple schools, and the going was tougher against the bigger schools, as to be expected. As in some of the other, newer (to CCHS) sports, the Bulldogs compete in districts made up of both Class A and AA teams. 

“To be able to beat the Class A teams is a good accomplishment,” Collins said. “We’re mighty proud of them.”

CCHS had competitors in the 110 and intermediate hurdle events, the triple jump, relays and the discus and shot put, probably the team’s strong points. 

“Our boys were very strong in the discus and shot put,” Collins said. “We dominated most single A teams in that. We lacked the depth we needed in relays for boys and girls both. We particularly need more participants on the girls team.”

With help from area businesses and the community, a pit for the long and triple jump was constructed, along with a pad for the shot put and a pad and safety cage for the discus. “We had a lot of support from the community on those projects,”Collins said. “A lot of people donated time and money.

“We had to lengthen the jump pit twice, as our jumpers got better and better,” he said.

Collins said one of the great things about the sport is “there’s no ‘bench’ in track. Everybody can compete in up to four events,” he said. “We had a lot of people who had a niche they could compete in. There’s something for everybody to be successful in. 

“Track reaches a group of students that might not be able or want to participate in other sports,” Collins said.

 

All about choices

That’s the beauty of all the sports besides football, basketball and softball/baseball for these high school athletes. (We are also seeing many more choices at the junior high level.) 

Not everyone can compete in what we might call those “major” sports, or even has a desire to. These other sports open up an opportunity for dozens more athletes to be a part of a team setting and to compete, not only against other athletes or teams, but in some instances, against themselves. In sports, as in life, isn’t it all really about being the best we can be, to borrow an armed forces slogan? 

Here’s a thanks to all involved, from coaches (paid and volunteer) to principals and athletic directors to school board members, who have helped broaden our sporting choices. Our students, schools and communities are much the better for it.