Students, coaches anticipate successful track season

As winter sports are wrapping up, track and field prepares athletes and coaches for the new season ahead. Starting back up over the past few weeks and led by new head coach Gary Jones, the season has been an eventful period for new and returning athletes. Jones had much to say about the upcoming season.

“I expressed interest in filling the [head coach] position as Coach Wild was promoted to ssistant athletic director,” said Jones. “[The] former athletic director, Rusty Hudson, and Coach Wild felt that I was qualified and a good choice for the job.”

Fully capable of handling any task presented to him, Jones presented himself clearly as the right man to lead this team to success.

“As head coach, my job is to supervise pretty much every event,” said Jones. “Coach Tribble handles all the distance kids, while Coach Clonts handles pole vault exclusively. Beyond that, Coach Anderson and I coach the sprinters, jumpers, and other events.”

Even with all these coaches training student-athletes now, the team eagerly awaits the arrivals of coaches Sean O’Sullivan and Zach Darling, who are still occupied with their winter sports.

In the meantime, track members expressed their thoughts on the new season. As newly appointed head coach, Jones brings a completely different feel to the team as expressed by several athletes. Coaching with a different style than those of previous coaches, he has altered and improved many aspects of the team.

“I enjoy Coach Jones,” said junior discus thrower West Jones. “Something different about this year is that we started a lot earlier than in years past.”

Sophomore sprinter and pole-vaulter Zaria Franklin thinks that Jones’s different approach to coaching works for the better.

“Practice is a lot harder than it was last year,” said Franklin. “It is paying off because we are already doing times that we were not doing until April last year; the intensity is on a whole different level.”

Practice may not always be the highlight of all athletes’ days. To boost incentive and motivate student-athletes to always give their best and stay on top of attendance, Jones implemented a new standard for receiving varsity letters: athletes who attend every practice are guaranteed varsity letter recognition. Senior captain Charlotte Folinus, who has had plenty of tough practices as a distance runner, noted the rewarding nature of practice.

“I do enjoy practice, although it’s really hard,” said Folinus. “I will spend a whole day thinking about a hard practice coming up, but it’s really rewarding and you feel good afterwards.”

Junior captain Caroline Moulton shared similar feelings about practice.

“When I know there is going to be a very tough practice, I feel like I do not want to come,” said Moulton. “However, I am always happy that I persevered afterwards.”

Every single workout prepares not only the athletes but also the coaches for competition.

“Coach Tribble is a really phenomenal coach,” said Folinus. “ He is really inspirational, always getting the most out of us in practice. He believes in his athletes and tries to get us to believe in ourselves just as much.”

Every track and field coach is invested in every individual, seeking improvement and results from each and every member of the team, just as much as the athletes do so themselves.

“I like Coach Jones because he wants everyone to get better,” said freshman sprinter Michael Mahan. “He corrects everyone and does not just focus on a small group of people.”

Team members also shared some positive feedback about the other coaches of the team.

“Not only is Coach Anderson a good coach,” said Franklin, “ but he also wants to know how you’re doing outside of track.”

Having participated in sports in high school, college, or both, many coaches have extensive track and field background and experience. Jones owes much of is coaching knowledge to his past participation.

“I competed in track and field both in high school, at Westlake High School, and in college, at Clark Atlanta University,” said  Gary Jones. “I ran anywhere from the 200 meter all the way to the 800 meter, with my strongest events as the 400 meter and the 4×400. To me, the best coaches are the ones that have done it before; it’s difficult to adjust and improve athletes if you’ve never actually competed or participated at a high level yourself.”

Just like Jones, the other coaches are experienced.

“I ran track when I was in high school,” said sprinting coach T.J. Anderson. “I did it really just because I was a football player who wanted to stay in shape and maintain speed.”

Anderson ran at South Gwinnett High School, and after playing football in college, he began coaching at Mountain View High School. At the start of the 2014-2015 school year, he started coaching at Westminster.

“Being at a 6A school, which is where I was before in Gwinnett County, there were more athletes to choose from,” said Anderson. “I had more sprinter types then, but Westminster kids work hard and I definitely think that that will help us achieve our goals.”

One event for which prior athletic experience is necessary for coaching is pole vaulting. Clonts, who currently coaches the pole-vaulters, competed for two years with both boys and girls in a GHSA high school.

“My past experience is everything,” said Clonts. “I know what pole vaulting feels like, and what it looks like. I have also studied coaching DVDs and been to a lot of conferences for pole vaulting.”

Clonts explained that pole vaulting is a sport that can be dangerous if proper technique and training are not practiced.

“Just about every day, someone will do something that’s pretty dangerous,” said Clonts. “I have to keep a watchful eye and teach athletes how to fall backwards, such as when the come back towards the runway and other techniques, in order to prevent injury.”

Many track members, similar to Anderson back in his high school years, joined the team not necessarily driven to set records in events or win championships.

“I started to run track because I also play football and would like to improve my speed,” said Mahan. “Running track helps me to stay in shape.”

As a non-cut sport, track and field is the type of sport consisting of athletes with a diverse range of motives. Most commonly, people just want  to stay occupied and active.

“I joined the team in the sixth grade,” said West Jones. “I was really just looking for something to during the spring season.”

Jones became a captain and leader of the team since then.

“I chose running track over playing soccer,” said Moulton, “because I did not necessarily feel as if I was good enough to continue on to play varsity soccer.”

Some team members participate in outside track and field organizations.

“I started running track when I was nine years old with a recreational team,” said Franklin. “I still run with them during the summer and it really helps me for the spring season.”

Although high expectations have been set for the upcoming season, athletes and coaches alike believe that they can not only meet but also exceed them.

“The team is definitely hoping to win state,” said Folinus. “We will only be able to do that if everyone is really committed and working their hardest to be their best.”

Mahan also shared similar thoughts with enthusiasm.

“I think it would be cool to win a state championship,” said Mahan. “I think our team is strong enough to do it this year.”

Gary Jones is always looking for the best out of his athletes and also thinks the team will be successful.

“Not only are we very deep in the distance and pole vault events, but we’re also solid everywhere else,” said Jones. “Our girls are very strong and we expect big things from them, and although the boys may not be as favored as the girls, they are strong as well. I think that we will have some surprising performances and some unsung heroes on the boys’ side.”

Jones hopes to have at least a top-five finish for both girls and boys at the state this year.

“We have the potential,” said Jones. “If we continue to work hard and fulfill that potential, we should be there.”

As the season progresses, the TrackCats are calling out to the student body for support more than ever.

“We never have anyone at the track meets,” said Folinus. “It would be really great to have some students there.”