Senior Maia Johnsson paces her way through the 1600m against Homestead on March 29. The varsity track team holds a 2-1 league record, and underclassmen have been one key to the team’s success, junior captain Hillary Studdert said. Photo by Charlotte Hallenbeck

Track and field team starts off strong, sets sight on league, CCS

Beginning to ramp up its training in preparation for upcoming invitational and post-season meets, the varsity track and field team holds a 2-2 league record.

“We’re really excited to race at the Stanford Invitational and Arcadia Invitational in the upcoming weeks, and then, of course, all focus will shift towards the postseason after that,” junior captain Hillary Studdert said. “I am really excited to see how everyone does at these meets because of the hard work everyone has been putting in during practices.”

While the girls team is led by Studdert and other upperclassmen, underclassmen have been crucial to the team at league meets.

“A few of the freshmen and sophomore girls have really stepped up this season and are performing really well,” Studdert said. “I am really proud of them and the team and how things have been going.”

Similarly, the boys team has also seen the impact of having strong underclassmen.

“A lot of kids who got into running this year — freshmen — have been super dedicated during cross country and came over to track with this really great mindset of helping out the team, being competitive and winning,” senior captain Diego Diaz said. “I think it really shows during our meets.”

In fact, Diaz said the boys team is the most talented team Paly has seen in a long time. Diaz said runners like junior Cameron Phillips and junior Kelvin Moresi have been assets to the team through their commitment and hard work.

“Moresi has worked really hard over the last three years of track and cross country and this year. His work has really shown,” Diaz said. “He’s been an incredible person to run with, and he works really hard, which is really admirable and translates a lot to the younger runners because they see that hard work and want to follow his lead.”

While the team can be serious and determined at times, the team’s atmosphere as fun and lighthearted.

“I think that this year especially, the team has been closer than it ever has been before,” Diaz said. “This atmosphere is really showing at meets, invitationals and in our relays, which is really great to see.”

Hurdlers want to peak for CCS

With only two events in each meet, the hurdlers are looking at every league meet and practice as an opportunity to improve and build strength, coach Carl Florant said.

“Every meet is more of a workout because we’re really focusing on trying to peak for CCS and the ultimate state meet,” Florant said. “As far as invitationals and regular meets, I am not real big on that, but I see that as a stepping stone for them to better themselves and to hopefully believe in themselves more and more each time so that by the time we get to the bigger meets, that won’t be a question, and it’ll already be ingrained.”

As a Paly alumni and school record holder in the 110 meter hurdles, Florant said he is using his experience to work on the team’s mechanics, especially with multiple underclassmen joining his team this season.

While Florant’s efforts to train the hurdlers began with pre-season training, he said he’s being forced to alleviate the effects of shin splints that have impacted almost the entire group of hurdlers.

“It gets a little frustrating, but we’re trying to work through that by mitigating the amount of stress we’re putting on everyone’s shins by working out on the infield,” Florant said. “Hopefully, by the time we get to SCVALS and CCS, we’ll be tapering off so that everybody will feel a lot fresher and feel their best.

Throwing team gets a new coach

Under the instruction of a new coach, Elsbeth Padia, the throwing team has been able to improve significantly more this season than previous years, captain and junior Terra Majors said.

“Individually, we’ve all improved because we have someone who can be there with us to correct little things,” Majors said. “Before we could’ve only thrown once a week, but now we can throw four times a week.”

While Padia may coach, she is also a star on the track herself. She started sprinting for masters at the age of 60, but shifted her focus to throwing — shot put, discus, and javelin — when her knees gave out.

As for the throwing team’s structure, it comprises a mix of under and upperclassmen.

“That’s what’s really nice about throwing — it can be your passion or you might be just starting out and there will always be a place for you,” Majors said.

Despite the differences in age among the throwers, Majors said the team is close with one another which she finds enjoyable.

“We have a little section to ourselves because throwing is on the other side of the field and there’s not a lot of us,” Majors said. “We also come together when we laugh with each other at all the runners who pass by us while we’re spinning in circles.”

Coach hopes to maximize success

While the record would indicate a successful first half of the season, coach Michael Davidson said his team is not at its full potential due to injuries and a lack of commitment.

“People want to do a bunch of other different sports — trying to do this and that — it’s taking its toll because their bodies can’t handle it,” Davidson said. “They’re also just not here, and the times that they aren’t training, the opportunities for them to get better and grow aren’t there.”

This pattern of inconsistent attendance and injuries is common on a team with 208 participants, Davidson said.

“I think the distance crew is in a good space because a lot of them come from cross country,” Davidson said. “A lot of the injuries we have now, we saw in the earlier parts of cross country, so when they come back, they’re taking care of themselves and nurturing themselves back to their full potential.”

Davidson said he hopes to prevent any more injuries while also upping the intensity of the workouts going forward.

“My goal is the same every year: for the kids to maximize their ability, to be at their best both physically and mentally when it comes to racing and to qualify as many kids as possible to get to the next round,” Davidson said. “Workouts will get harder, more aggressive, but there will also be more rest in between. The challenge we also face is that kids come and work hard, but they don’t get the rest their bodies need and they end up getting hurt — it’s a balancing act every year.”