Girls Varsity Track and Field Hits the Ground Running

Sports

The girls varsity track and field team has jumped over COVID-19 hurdles and sprinted their way to a successful season.

Unlike past seasons marked by New England Championships and Founders League meets, due to COVID-19, the track and field program has undergone many changes to its schedules. The team only had two meets on their schedule – one on Saturday, May 1 at Marianapolis Preparatory School and another on Saturday, May 22, at Hopkins School.

While the track and field program consists of both boys and girls and holds coed practices, the meets and their respective 17 events are split by gender. The girls varsity track and field group had a successful showing at their first meet of the season, scoring a 93-43 victory against Marianapolis. 

The girls excelled in various events across the board, ranging from short sprints to long-distance runs to throwing and jumping events. Some of the team’s standout successes at Marianapolis were in the meet’s most high-intensity races. They had their most athletes ever competing in the grueling 1500 and the 3000 and also achieved successful handoffs and finishes in the teamwork-centric 4×100. 

Occurring at the end of each meet, one of the most infamous yet rewarding events in track and field is the 4 x 400. However, in typical Wyvern fashion, the track and field athletes took this daunting task as an opportunity to show their determination and zeal. KO fielded three girls relay teams for this notorious event, and as the athletes took their marks, the remaining girls and boys on the team surrounded the track with cheers of support and excitement. “The coaches at the end had to be like, ‘You guys need to step away from the track!’ because everybody was yelling and cheering,” senior Co-captain Cici Chagnon said. “It was really fun, especially because the 4 x 4…can be sort of daunting if you’re running it, but everybody was really supportive of each other.”

This competitive spirit shined through in the books as well, as many Wyverns were able to set new personal records for their times, throws, and jumps. Head Coach Tricia Watson commended the team’s successful work. “We had multiple teams out there, from the throwing events, to mid-distance, to sprinters, and to see that competitiveness with just one Marianapolis team and three KO teams is fantastic,” she said. 

Coach Watson highlighted successful performances from athletes in various grades and events, but freshman Ashley Neikrie stood out as a key contributor to the team’s successful day. “Strength-wise, I would absolutely focus on Ashley Neikrie,” Coach Watson said. “She has been amazing. She is a very versatile athlete, so I could throw her in the 4 x 1 even though she runs the 3000, and everything in between.” At the Marianapolis meet, Neikrie set a personal record in the 1500 with a time of 5 minutes, 20.1 seconds. Coach Watson touched on other notable performances on the girls side. Sophomore McKenzie Campbell achieved a 55.05 in the discus and a 49.07 in the javelin, junior Megan Murphy jumped 3.10 in the high jump and ran the 200 with a time of 28.40, and sophomore Charlotte Eberle scored a 23.05 in the triple jump.

While the girls track and field squad had an outstanding performance at Marianapolis, the meet also highlighted many areas for improvement. “One of the things that we try to always move forward in is the areas of technique and skill work,” Coach Watson said. However, due to COVID-19 limitations, it has been harder for this skill work to take place. The team has had to adjust to running with masks, a shorter meet schedule, and, most notably, the loss of access to the Conard High School track for practices. Practices are often held at Sterling Park, which is a gravel track, or on KO’s campus, but on Wednesdays, the team is able to use Conard’s facilities, allowing them to focus on skill work in intra-squad meets. 

Coach Watson also expressed her gratitude toward KO’s Buildings and Grounds crew for building a long jump pit on campus for the team to practice with. “Being able to have those structures in place allows the technique work to happen more often,” she said. “Having facilities and the instruments to learn the technique is what’s necessary.”

One of the less-noticed aspects of track and field is mental toughness, and the team is focusing on this side of the sport during practices. “Even though we did really well at Marianapolis, I think we struggled with this endurance of keeping up with all of the events that we were going to,” Chagnon said. Senior Co-captain Annelise Vaughn also spoke to the key mental component of track and field that complements the physical component. “Your mind’s telling you that you are done because your body hurts, but it’s not actual physical pain,” she said. “…It’s a really mental game, and it helps to be able to cheer everybody on… To make everyone feel included and feel like they’re making the best of it is really my goal.”

Coach Watson praised the captains’ leadership this season and their ability to maintain the hallmark Wyvern track and field spirit of past seasons. On the girls side of the team, there are two senior Co-captains, Vaughn and Chagnon, and the team also recently brought in junior Co-captain Ashleigh Stepnowski. “They’re really amazing role models,” Coach Watson said, “I couldn’t do it without them. They’re super helpful, energetic, and have a lot of experience.” 

The girls varsity track and field team has their next and final meet of the season on Saturday, May 22, at Hopkins School. Looking ahead, the coaches, captains, and athletes have various goals. Coach Watson emphasized staying healthy, taking care of injuries, and keeping oneself in a good mental and physical state to finish the season off strong. Neikrie shared a similar sentiment. “I would like to see everyone keep trying their best and putting their best foot forward, and I hope that everyone maintains a good mindset,” she said. 

As senior Co-captains, Chagnon and Vaughn have had the chance to reflect on their experiences on the girls varsity track and field team and how it has shaped them to become better athletes and people. Vaughn shared that being on the team has helped her gain confidence in her abilities. “The portion where it’s the hard work part isn’t always enjoyable, but the coaches are always supportive and they want you to do better,” she said, “and seeing your results pay off is such a good feeling.” Chagnon agreed, also sharing that track and field has helped her come out of her shell. “I feel like track is good for that,” she said, “for that perseverance of not getting down on yourself, knowing that you got it and you can keep going and to not worry about the rest of it.”

The girls varsity track and field team has proven that they can thrive in the face of adversity. With the foundation of success and determination that they have laid thus far, the team is ready to hit the ground running for their upcoming meet at Hopkins and for seasons to come.