MCB Camp Lejeune | March 22, 2012
Agility, endurance and determination are great qualities to find in an athlete. They are the types of qualities coaches look for during try-outs and the characteristics that separate the great athletes from the rest of the herd.
Luckily, Lejeune High School is full of great athletes. Just look at the track and field team.
Comprised of student athletes who play other sports for the Devil Pups, the mens and womens’ track and field teams are a popular choice for students who want to stay in shape and better themselves during the off-season.
“I encourage all athletes to participate in track,” said mens’ coach Darryl Schwartz, who also coaches the Lejeune Devil Pups’ football team. “It’s perfect for the football athlete. We build toughness, stamina, strength and leadership.”
Participating in track and field keeps student athletes in shape both physically and mentally. The challenge presented in shifting from football or cheerleading to running track and jumping hurdles works different muscles and helps keep the student athlete mindset by providing an athletic outlet during the off-season.
“My daughter is a junior and she decided to try something different than softball and cheerleading,” explained Christena Downey, whose daughter runs the 100 meter and 300 meter hurdles on the LHS track and field team. “This is her first year and it’s completely different, but she is enjoying it. It’s a challenge, but it gets her in better shape for tumbling during cheer season.”
Downey, who participated in track in high school, has seen the improvement in her daughter’s abilities since she started running. With the help of women’s track coach Debra Bryant, Downey’s daughter was able to find the events that suited her.
“She had no idea what she wanted to do or what she would be good at when she started the team,” said Downey. “Coach Bryant has been awesome. She really worked with her, told her to stick with it through the season, and helped her find out that she can jump and run the hurdles without too much difficulty.”
Unlike other sports, finding a strength in the world of track and field can be difficult. With so many opportunities, many student athletes have a hard time discovering where their strengths lie.
To help their student athletes, the track and field coaching team pays special attention to the strengths and abilities of each individual, as well as to how they work in team settings and where they are most comfortable.
“I am data driven,” explained Schwartz. “I set up a database to observe and then go from there. Every athlete gets special attention as to whether they run or jump. We talk about the number of events and see how they feel about what they are running, and after a few meets we find our race.”
It takes a lot of time from both the coaches and their students to excel at track and field, but a dedicated team of students and having both Schwartz, Bryant, and their assistant coaches guiding both the mens’ and womens’ teams gives the runners and jumpers on the Devil Pups’ track and field teams the edge they need to stay competitive and push through plateaus.
Since so many different skill sets have to be taught to the students on the teams, track and field athletes have to be flexible and dependable. They do a lot of their own work in practice and put in extra time pounding the pavement on the weekends when they could be relaxing at home. Their hard work has already started to pay off, though, and the team tripled their points between their first and second meet.
“We have three types of conditioning,” said Schwartz. “Sprinters, mid-distance and distance have different workouts .... I also rely on the team to work independently from me. I am in the area but don’t always have direct contact. They have done a wonderful job of independent work.”
Just like every other student athlete in their school, the Devil Pups’ track and field team members are responsible for keeping up with their classwork and schoolwork. The mens’ team set a team goal to be leaders in and out of the classroom, show improvements and make sure they are cheering each other on at practice and during meets.
Accomplishing their team and individual goals requires more from the young athletes than many other sports, though. With so many members of the LHS track and field teams participating in other sports, the team was not whole for the first three weeks of the season. Basketball players were still practicing inside and attending games, which meant they had to push even harder on the track. According to Schwartz, it takes “guts and sportsmanship” to stay competitive in track and field, especially when athletes are still playing other sports.
“As we say, ‘push the pain,’” said Schwartz. “We have eight more meets to improve. We are focusing on getting into better shape in the next few weeks with tech days between meets. We will run more repeats at practice, which means its quantity, not quality for us.”
With more than 28 athletes on the teams, traveling together requires two busses, but the teams attend their meets together and cheer each other on. In addition to having the support of their teammates and coaching staff, the members of the LHS track and field teams also have the support of the multitude of parents who attend meets.
“We have great parent support,” boasted Schwartz. “They come out and cheer, and offer their services at home meets.”
Having the support of parents is more important than ever at home meets aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, where Schwartz, Bryant and the coaches on the other teams must have help manning stations in order to keep events running smoothly.
While their season has just begun, the track and field teams have high hopes for their upcoming meets. They continue to work at specific skills in the hopes of placing high in their upcoming meets.
“It’s very rewarding when you are working a meet and the athletes are doing what they are supposed to be doing on their own, with direct supervision,” said Schwartz. “Our goals are to improve and place in the top two at our conference and regionals.”