Track teams return to Liston
Warm temperatures and Baker University's spring break have helped the Baldwin High School track teams get their seasons off to a good start.
The BHS teams have been practicing since March 5. During that time, they have enjoyed the weather, which warmed up after a frigid winter, and the ability to practice alone.
"The weather has been amazing," BHS boys' coach Mike Spielman said. "We have had all really good days. Even the days that haven't been great have been like 50 (degrees), which are not unbearable days. It's also been nice that Baker was on spring break, so that gives us a chance to use the track ourselves."
Baker University's spring break was last week, which allowed BHS the freedom to use the Liston Stadium facility, which was renovated last year. This is the first season in which the new track surface will be used at Baker.
Last year the Bulldogs traveled to Wellsville to practice two or three times a week. Although the team doesn't have to travel, BHS girls' coach Ted Zuzzio isn't convinced it's a great situation at Liston.
"That's a tough question," Zuzzio said when asked about whether he enjoyed not traveling to Wellsville this spring. "Not riding the bus is great, but there is a lot of activity out there. It is a well-used facility."
After the renovations, the local track teams are without the use of one long jump runway, shot put ring and discus ring. All three were there last year, but the expansions of the track and parking lot have removed them from the facility.
To compensate for the loss of facilities, the BHS track teams are using the structures that were constructed around the high school last year. Those were created for practice purposes a year ago.
"The throwers have been working out at the high school, so they get some more quality time in there," Zuzzio said. "There is a nice javelin runway at Baker."
There are facilities for all field events at Liston that the BHS teams will use for competition during meets. The Bulldogs practice at the high school to avoid congestion at the throwing arenas.
One way BHS has tried to improve their field athletes is with the addition of their two new assistant coaches. They are 2002 BHS graduate Eric Black and Joe Sample. Black has been working with the jumpers while Sample has been helping the throwers practice.
"I have been very excited what Eric Black and Joe Sample have brought to the program," Spielman said. "They are both doing a great job and the kids really enjoy them. They are young, excited and have some energy. It's been a great relief to me how well they have fit into the program."
For the runners, the first couple of weeks have been used for helping the athletes get into track shape.
"Right now, we are mainly working on conditioning," Spielman said. "The field event people are working on technique and getting back into the swing of things. We are just building the base right now."
The boys' team has 33 participants out, while the girls' team has 25 this spring. Both teams have many returning from last year, but several new faces and freshmen, also.
"I've been really excited about everybody," Spielman said. "We've got a really good group of kids out. We've made some pretty good improvements over these first two weeks. We have some new faces and that's always nice to see."
Both teams return several athletes who competed at the state meet last May. The most notable returnee is junior Heather Garcia, who won two gold medals and one silver medal at state.
Zuzzio will be looking toward Garcia and his two seniors, Kelsey Verhaeghe and Amanda Vander Tuig, for leadership this season.
"Heather Garcia is going to be exciting to watch," Zuzzio said. "We have two seniors who are going to line up and be competitors at the state track meet as well. They will both be competing out there all four years, which is exciting. They will be the leaders, along with Heather."
The girls' team also has several others that scored in different meets throughout last year. They will be joined by some talented freshmen.
"We've got a pretty unknown team," Zuzzio said. "We have young throwers, except (junior Courtney) Harris and (junior Colby) Heckathorne with experience in the javelin. We will look for them to score us some points in that event. (sophomore Olivia) Catloth is back in the hurdles and high jump. We've got some nice freshmen and (sophomore) Nicole Lordemann is back in the discus. She did some good things at the end of the season for us last year. Madison Shoemaker is also a quality relay person for us. We're going to be competitive."
The boys' team returns senior Aaron Mills, who won the long jump and placed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at state.
A few other Bulldogs that ran at the state meet also, including seniors Chris Elniff and Caj Kueffer, will join Mills as leaders on the team.
"I think, like last year, we will have a little bit in everything," Spielman said. "We probably won't have any hurdles this year, so that will be the one thing we don't have. But I think we will have some jumpers, throwers, sprinters and distance kids that could score for us."
The BHS track season begins March 30 with the Baldwin Invitational.