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.