SPRINGFIELD TWP. More than virtually any other high school sport, track and field is a numbers game.
It’s not so much the tenths of seconds and fractions of inches that make the biggest difference, but rather the number of athletes a team has on its roster than help decide wins and losses.
Springfield head coach Kevin Gorby, a veteran of the track and field world, knows this truth well. It’s why he’s excited to begin the year with a solid number of athletes for the boys and girls teams and part of the reason he’s hopeful for a successful campaign.
"The nice thing is really we have a really good turnout for boys and girls, with about 60 athletes between the two programs," Gorby said. "We have depth in some of our events, which is really nice."
Depth isn’t a luxury the programs have always had, but the roster size has increased during Gorby’s tenure and with that increase has come more competitive teams on the boys’ and girls’ sides of the ledger.
This season, the boys team’s biggest strengths appear to be in the sprints and hurdles, while the girls have their best depth and ability in the distance events.
One of the members of the boys team poised to make a splash is senior Aric Parks, who emerged as a deep threat for the Springfield football team in the fall before submitting an impressive indoor track season during the winter.
"Aric Parks, made all-state for indoor track in the high jump, placing eighth, and he was also ninth in the hurdles Division II and III," Gorby said. "So he comes right out of gate being ready to go."
Gorby also pointed to seniors Dylan Neidenthal and Zach DiLauro as two of the top runners for the Spartans entering the season, but even with their strength in the shorter races, it’s the distance runners who could surprise and open eyes as the year wears on.
While the group is young, it contains several runners who have come up through the expanded youth program that has taken shape since Gorby arrived at Springfield. Runners such as Blake Hillyard and Carter McCollum may not be done with their second year of high school yet, but both have been in plenty of tough races in their cross country and track careers.
"Our distance team is no longer freshmen who don’t know what’s going on. Blake and Carter are both sophomores, but they’re very good runners," Gorby said.
For the girls, a 3,200 relay team that missed qualifying for the indoor state championship meet by .03 seconds will be looking to do big things during the outdoor season and with runners such as Emma Sandefur, Cassidy Phillips and Eden Amador-Gorby, the distance group is a solid one.
In the throwing events, senior Melissa Walsh is the veteran expected to lead the way and the girls team’s fate will also hinge on how well a crowded pack of young sprinters fares as they look to grow and claim starting spots.
Stops at the East Canton Invitational, Big Ox Invitational, Trinity Invitational and Columbiana Invitational will all serve as measuring sticks for the Spartans as they steer toward the Portage Trail Conference championships in early May. One of the central beliefs for the program as the season begins is that the work done and successes achieved during the indoor season will carry over to the outdoor season.
While February and March bring erratic, often-frigid weather to the area and force local teams indoors for practice, Gorby believes having a large number of runners competing in indoor meets will lessen the negative impact of not being able to run outside in the weeks leading up to the outdoor season.
"The great news for us is that we’ve had a strong indoor program last five years and we know how to run inside," Gorby said. "Our indoor track team had 45 to 50 kids who are now able to go straight from indoor to outdoor track. My kids can hit first that first outdoor meet having run three indoor meets, so the indoor program is a huge part of our outdoor success."
Gorby pointed back to last season, when then-seniors Desiree Thomas and Tracy Jordan earned all-state honors competing indoors and went on to qualify for the state championships during the outdoor season, as evidence of that trend.
Whether any of Springfield’s athletes can achieve similar success this outdoor season remains to be determined, but the Spartans like where they’re at to start their journey.
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