Several members of the Boyertown Area High School boys' winter track team competed at the Meet of Champions at Lehigh University on Saturday, February 16.The distance relay team of David Moyer, Ben Falcone, Steve Taylor and Mark Dennin took 11th place in a time of 11:02.64.
Dennin took second place in the 3,000 meter run in a time of 8:50.01, while Moyer ran a 9:43.4 in the same event.
Head Coch Don Hendricks has a young team this season. He has a lot of sophomores and freshman, with only a few upperclassmen. It's a tough sport, because they practice in the elements. There has only been two times this year when they haven't been able to practice outside.
Even with a young team, Hendricks didn't expect the season to start the way it did.
"Up until the weekend of January 19th, the season had gone very slowly," said Hendricks. "We won very few medals (six to be exact) and that's one of the things that I use to gauge our progress. The other gauge that I use is the number of improved performances that we have. We've been over 50% improved performances all season long. That's a phenomenal accomplishment for this young team."
Hendricks has seen the young athletes working very hard this season. The improvement is a sign of the hard work they have done so far this season. The weekend of January 19, the team won six more medals.
David Moyer finished fourth in the 3,000m race and a personal best time of 9:17. Greg Gray had a fifth place finish in the long jump (19' ' 4"), and the novas 4 x 400 relay team of Storm Wistler, Greg Learn, Jeff Taylor and Dalton Christ came away with a gold medal.
Mark Dennin has only entered a couple of distance medley relays this season. Dennin did race in Montgomery, Maryland and with his time was able to qualify for the state meet.
As with every coach, there is a method to their madness. Hendricks uses the medals to gauge the team's success.
"Winning a medal is a demonstration that you have achieved excellence," said Hendricks. "That is one of the things that I pursue here and I tell the guys from the outset that you are here to achieve excellence. You won't be there immediately, but you will get there. That's what I want them to strive for. I also tell them that I want them to improve and that's very important."
Hendricks decides who gets varsity letters and he gives out very few. The ways that they can get a varsity letter is by winning a medal, breaking a school record or breaking a field house record. If they break a record in the state meet, they will also receive a varsity letter.
"There are very stringent criteria to get a varsity letter," said Hendricks. "The kids want to get a varsity letter and that's very motivational for them. They work their tails off and they are gluttens for hard work. Under the conditions we work in, the cold and the wind, I couldn't imagine myself doing what they do when I was their age. I get very emotional talking about these kids. I'm very proud of them."
The young team has done a lot of growing up this year. "When they are here for four years, the growth is enormous and that's very satisfying as a coach," said Hendricks. "That is why we are here, It's the growth, not only physically, but mentally. Their personalities grow and they become more vocal. They speak more in sentences and not in one word answers. They become neat young people and they become much more helpful to me. The seniors will take responsibility for the younger members of the team and will help them with some aspect of the sport. That has become a big help to me."
Hendrick's isn't sure why there were such big numbers with the younger athletes, but he's delighted that it happen. There were a large number of freshmen last year and again this year. The really good news is they have all stuck with it.
"Some of them aren't sprinters and they have to envision that," said Hendricks. He changed one athlete from sprinting workouts to distance work-outs and that athlete has thrived on that.
Coach Hendrick's isn't surprised by the progress of his team this year. "I have come to believe that the capacity of a youngster to grow is almost unlimited," said Hendricks. "What is going to determine that is their motivation and their ability to absorb discomfort. They have to work hard and inspire to great things..
To be able to race in the Meet of Champions, the athletes know they have earned the honor and the competition there will be very tough.
"When they got there, they ran against other athletes who have won medals," said Hendricks. "In our sport, like in any sport it's desirable to run against the best. Our competitors are essentially our best friends. By inspiring to beat them, we improve ourselves. By running against other champions, we improve ourselves to the maximum."
Phil Haddad is a free lance writer for the Times and all comments can be sent to email@example.com