Prep track: Hurricane coaches divide responsibilities
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A different approach to the Hurricane track program has translated into greater unity and hopefully greater success, its coaches say.
Where most teams split the program with separate boys and girls coaches, Hurricane divides its coaching duties between sprinting, long distance and field events. The Redskins will look to put its method to test again today at the BB&T George Washington Classic at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field
"We're not looking at it as far as boys and girls track, but as one program: Hurricane High School Track and Field," said Coach Jason Henley, who handles specific duties for distance events.
"We just felt like that's the best way to approach it."
While Henley's name lists as the boys track coach, he brings his experience as the school's cross country coach to lead the track program's long-distance runners, both male and female. Meanwhile, Paul Sowards is the "unofficial" girls track coach, and directs the program's sprinters.
"We take a little bit of a different approach by combining the teams and trying to make the whole program stronger rather than having a strong boy program or a strong girl program or a mediocre both," Sowards said.
In addition to Sowards and Henley, the team's coaching staff includes: Jeremy Sargent (hurdles), David Miller (throws), Markel Fertig (jumps) and assistant sprints/distance coach Eva Seccurro.
Henley, who coached five years at the University of Charleston, said it makes sense to coach athletes by their events rather than split between boys and girls.
"We're dividing the work amongst the meet groups instead of by gender and we feel like it's a real successful thing," he said.
"There's a lot more cohesiveness, we feel like, than there's been in the past, a lot more team rooting than we've had in the past. Everybody's more involved and paying attention to what other people are doing. For the long term of the program, we felt like, it was going to be a better approach to just building a good team program."
The program certainly has much to build upon in the long-distance department. With the annual success of its girls cross country runners, who typically run with the track team, too, and this year's boys cross country squad that reached the state finals as a team for the first time in school history, Hurricane's strength lies in long distance.
Senior Emily Schwendiman leads this year's girls long-distance runners, participating in the 800-meter run, 1600, 3200 and 4x800 relay.
On the boys side, senior Drake Seccurro provides the leadership amongst a team full of talented sophomores, Henley said.
As for the sprint events, Steven Handley returns for the Redskins as one of the state's fastest runners. Handley will compete in the open 100, 200 and 400, as well as a combination of relays, Sowards said. Other top boys sprinters include Jeff Burnette and Rasaan Harris.
Each will be tested in today's meet, which will feature more than 18 schools, with all hoping to develop a comfort level at Laidley, which also hosts the state meet.
In addition to Hurricane, Winfield will attend the meet and projects to provide stiff competition, especially on the girls side.
Like Hurricane, Winfield draws upon its cross country runners to lead the long-distance events. The Generals feature Barkley Castro, Brittney McMillion and Rachel Englund among its long-distance runners.
In sprint events, senior Emily Cole and junior Anika Shah lead Winfield. Cole counts the 100, sprint relays and long jumping among her events, Coach David Bailey said.
"She's a really versatile athlete," Bailey said. "She's one of those, whatever you need, she'll do it. That's just the type of kid she is."
Beyond Winfield and Hurricane, the BB&T Classic lineup features a majority of AAA schools, including: Capital, Logan, Princeton, Ripley, Riverside, St. Albans and the Cabell Midland girls squad. However, it's also a chance for AA and A schools to gain some experience.
Among those smaller schools attending, Buffalo is poised to contend on its way to state.
"It's the fullest team I've ever had," Bison Coach Richie Wyant said. "We're going to score points in a lot more events than we have in the past. I don't know that we'll be getting too many firsts or seconds, but we're going to be in the top six, I think, in a good number of track events."
Others scheduled to attend include Herbert Hoover, Oak Hill, Shady Spring, Sissonville, Summers County, Wayne, Valley and Cross Lanes Christian.
Field events will begin at 4:45 p.m., with running events to start at 5 p.m.