MANCHESTER -- A throng of Burr and Burton Academy students in shorts and t-shirts jogged up the sidewalk of Seminary Avenue to E.H. Henry Gymnasium on a beautiful spring day on Tuesday. Before leaving for the day a couple had a brief exchange with their head coach Matt Kujovsky.
A group of 30 student athletes have been using just about every corner of the campus grounds to train for the upcoming track and field season, which until recently was set to begin with a pre-season meet this past Thursday. The meet - which was expected to take place at Fair Haven - was cancelled due to some of the lingering effects of winter, Kujovsky said. The team’s season opener is scheduled for next Thursday, April 10, also at Fair Haven.
When the season gets underway, Kujovsky said there is a bit of uncertainty as far as which studente will compete in certain events. With the exception of Marc Langlais, Emily Maier, Abigail Stalcup and Raili Utiger, the rest of the team is comprised of new members.
Maier - a junior - had some success last year at the State Championship meet qualifying for the 300 meter hurdles and 4 x 100 meter relay. Stalcup and Utiger also had some success - serving as members of the of the 4 x 100 meter relay team at last year’s state competition.
Langlais - one of the team’s returning throwers - has helped the team by recruiting several members of the wrestling team most of whom will be competing in events such as discus, javalin and shotput, Kujovsky said.
In addition, there are several members of the team - such as Utiger, Stalcup, Will Fisher, Ann Fisher, Amada Mulroy and Anders Proft - who competed in either cross-country in the fall or on the Nordic ski team during winter.
"If you look at the names on the roster, even though a lot of them are new to track, they are successful athletes in other sports, other running sports in particular," said Kujovsky. "So, I’m very positive and upbeat about this season. It’s tough to compete in Division II without a track. Us and Woodstock are the only two teams that don’t have tracks in Division II. So, it’s tough to compete at the state level, but yet we have kids that qualify and make it. So, more kudos to them for doing it without a track."
Rembert Albert, Jack Brand, Nick Crane, Zachary Curtis, Morgan Burns, Lacey Despain, Obrian Ellis, Meghan Grip, Rebekah Hamblett, Russell Johnson, Michael Lake, Lydia Maier, Julia McBride, Claudia Mosher, Lauren Mulroy, Christopher Pouk, Ike Pritchard, Adam Quinn, Emily Sheehan, Samuel Silsby, William Tucker and Cole Yanez round out the roster.
Thomas Kittross - who was on the team last year - chose not to come back this season, instead opting to focus on training to run in a marathon. Sanderson Kemp, another member of last year’s team, also chose not to return to the team so that she could focus on academics.
While there will be several kids trying a variety of events this season, Kujovsky said that there is a pretty equal division - about one third each - of kids who are focused on throwing, sprinting and jumping, and long distance events.
Being that so many of the members are new, assistant coach Paul Bremel said that first meet will be more about establishing expectations.
"I think we focus on the fact that their first meet, their first competition, will be a bench mark," said Bremel. "And it’s a whole lot easier to train kids when you know what they can do in a meet situation, especially distances 400 (meters) on up."
Bremel continued to say that the athletes performance in the first meet will be used to track the athletes progression as they they will be looking for them to improve throughout the season.
"I think this team has a lot of potential and it’s a very good nucleus for us to grow going forward," said Kujovsky. "In the past we’ve been a little loose because we want kids to come out and try it and this year I feel like this group is ready to take us the next step. I feel like they’re ready to really start to form a program and hopefully in the next few years we’ll get a track and they’ll be a part of it."
Another benefit from what they have seen so far, according to assistant coach Alex Vincent is that the group is "very coachable" and eager to learn more about the sport. Bremel said that many of the kids - unless they were on the team last season - do not know what a track meet is like and that next Thursday will be a learning experience for many of them.
As for the coaches’ goals for this season, one goal that they all seemed to share was to grow the program for next year.
"I would really want to keep this core. I would like to keep all the kids that have started. I would like to keep 30 kids," Kujovsky said. "We only have about five seniors so if we could get 25, at least 25, of these kids to come back next year, this core that I’ve talked about, then I am super psyched. That’s one of my main goals is to build this program."