HINSDALE — As the sun begins to shine and the snow and ice retreat, giving way to grass, it is more than just an indicator of the arrival of spring. Along with the change in weather comes the spring sports season, and for some members of the Hinsdale Track and Field team a chance to return to the outdoors and competition.
Coming into this season, the team will somewhat be starting over.
“We graduated four state qualifiers, which is a pretty solid year for us to get four in the state meet being a small school,” said head coach Glenn Hammett “So, this year is definitely a rebuilding year. We do have returners, but they weren’t at that level. We’ll see if they can step up.
One of those returners will be junior Isaiah Barker who Hammett said is on the cusp of qualifying for the state championships in hurdles.
“He just missed state qualifiers last year. So, we’re hoping with another year under the belt he can get in the state championship,” said Hammett. “Isiah is probably our closest guy as far as hurdles. He was like a tenth of a second out. He’s there.”
Among the team’s other top returners will be sophomore Benjamin Calderwood who will be competing in the middle-distance events. Senior Connor Sengaloun will be competing in a number of events including sprints, relays and long jumping, Hammett said. Junior Noah Demers will be among the top returners competing in some field events like shot put and discus.
With numbers on the boys’ side, Hammett said he had some ideas as to who may be a good fit for the relay teams, but that nothing was set as of yet.
“We do have some athletic kids. I get to narrow it down, which is pretty exciting,” Hammett said. “We’ve got some choices to make and we can mix and match.”
Juniors Ely Saari-Rosa, Jordan Smith and Quaid Tidwell, sophomores Marcus Beaudoin, Spencer Gentile and Zolah Rogers, eighth grader Izaiah Bascom and seventh grader Banyon Dupuis round out the boys’ roster.
Senior Paige Lenahan is the top returner on the women’s side and will be competing in a few events for the team.
“She’s on high jump and she does middle distance like 800 and sometimes the 1600,” said Hammett. “She comes from cross country, but she really liked high jump so we’re going to work on that.”
Sophomore Nikia Saari-Rosa is also returning this year and Hammett said he expects her to build on last year’s success.
“She had some success as a freshman last year as a shot put and disc thrower,” Hammett said. “Hopefully she can get her PRs up. I think she will.”
Sophomore Harmony Sullivan is the other member of the girls’ team.
Generally speaking, Hammett said there is some crossover from the students who participated in cross country to the students that compete in track and while some may be used to running, there is about 20 weeks between the end of the cross-country season and the beginning of track and field. With that in mind, Hammett said they are closely monitoring the athletes after the first couple of practices and trying to ease them back in to competing. For the runners, while they may not be doing as many miles at the start of the season, Hammett said they still try to build some days in that allows the athletes to rest up, while still focusing on practicing or learning technique.
While he wants them all to perform well and break their own personal records, at the beginning of the season there are other things that also come into play.
“I do want the kids to all get PRs (personal record) and they usually do,” said Hammett. “It’s not that important to PR right out of the gate because it’s so contingent on weather. Early spring you can have 40-mile-an-hour winds. It’s just nasty, but we do try to push the kids at the meets to be courageous and competitive.”
One example of being courageous and competitive that Hammett gave was for some of the athletes to step outside of their comfort zone and compete in different events. For example, Hammett has tried to encourage athletes who typically run the 1600 meters to participate in other events such as a relay or one of the field events such as javelin. The reason Hammett indicated is twofold. It helps keep the athletes engaged in the meet, which can take several hours to complete, if they are competing in multiple events, and it can help the team score points.
“I think this year all the returners will be more adventurous,” said Hammett. “Already we’re hearing people say ‘I want to try the javelin. I didn’t try it last year.’ It’s good for kids to get out and do things and get out of their comfort zone.”
While there are some members that will be competing in javelin, Hammett said there are others who will be competing in shot put and discus, as they feel more comfortable in those events.
The sport of track and field, and the running community in general, is unique in that it’s a tight knit group. So far, Hammett said he has definitely seen a connection amongst the members of this year’s team.
“We’ve definitely captured it in years past, the family feel, and it is a special group. There’s not a lot of inner squad squabbling. People get along and they’re excited to be around each other,” Hammett said. “A lot of them are first time ever athletes. Like track, they know they’ll be received well and accepted and I like that aspect as a coach. It really is for everybody. We’ll find your niche and try to give it a family feel.”
By the middle of the season, Hammett said he hopes the team is in tune with the way a meet runs and cognizant of what they need to do in their own personal routines to be prepared for their events, which is an aspect that can be especially challenging for first year participants. Also, by that point he is hopeful he will have a clearer idea of everyone’s skill set.
“Hopefully, we start to see some kids with real talents emerge at that point; kids who are knocking on the door of state qualifying times or we have one that’s just below it,” said Hammett. “It’s really uncertain this year what we’ll have. It’s definitely rebuilding, but maybe someone will emerge and they’re ready to be a force. So, we’ll see.”