Girls Track and Field enters season with coaching changes

By Finnegan Kiely

On the third floor of Lane, near Door D, Lane Girls Track and Field can be found hard at work after school. 

During the winter months, the large team practices indoors because of the frigid temperatures. There are approximately 100 girls on the team that participate in a multitude of track events: dashes, runs, relays and hurdles. Another crucial aspect of track are the field events: long jump, high jump, shot put and pole vault. This year, however, the team has seen many changes, according to Head Coach Laura McKnight, who was recently promoted from assistant to head coach.

“I have the opportunity to really lead the program from the top, which was a big deal, because you could impact culture … being able to hire coaches, and assistants, and then working more with the sprinters in the field events.” 

Berkeley Cameron, a former heptathlete, was hired by Mcknight so the team had someone to train girls on sprints, hurdles and high jump.

 “I was a sprinter in college and a hurdler, so I haven’t coached since I was an athlete,” Cameron said. “But I think the energy is really good this year. … They’re really excited to have somebody to actually work with them.”

 Cameron said that it is important to have runners in every event. 

“In the past, the girls have been weak in the field events, and that’s really where you win a state championship,” she said. “If we can get a few people that are really good in each of those events. … I think that’ll really put us over, like, set us apart from the competition.”

 In addition to Cameron, there are four other assistant coaches. Javier Reyes, a science teacher at Lane, and Alexander Schaul, a PE teacher, both work closely with McKnight to train long distance runners and sprinters. Caitlin Klopfer, an outside hire, coaches long distance and Lane’s Director of Technology Patrick Bartman focuses on throwing events such as shot put. 

Sprinters have stepped into different roles that will help the team be more dynamic, according to McKnight. Sprint captain Nicole Collins, who has run track since freshman year, has decided to do jumps and pole vault this season.

“I think this new coaching staff is really into letting girls experiment with all the different events that track has to offer,” Collins said. 

Alongside the six coaches are four sprint captains (senior Madisyn Burke, junior Charlotte Price, senior Sydney Dolhay and senior Nicole Collins) and three distance captains (senior Kate Roarty, senior Olivia Ide and senior Caroline McCarthy). Last year, Roarty and McCarthy qualified for state in the 4x800m relay and finished top ten. Ide was the top distance runner on the Cross Country team and will participate in the 1600 meter and 3200 meter runs this season. 

These captains, McKnight said, are great at building team culture and helping the younger girls stay motivated to put in the work every day at practice. 

“The older girls model what it means to, you know, have buy in,” she said. “They have bought into the coach’s philosophy, the team philosophy, and they’re doing all the things that are required to be successful.” 

As well as being able to model for the younger runners on the team, captains are experienced in dealing with potentially harmful injuries. 

“A lot of the girls on the team have shin splints from running in the halls…so we’ve been incorporating workouts that help alleviate the pain and make us feel better,” Dolhay said. 

With so many girls on the team, all with different individual problems, leadership is needed to guide the group as a whole towards further progress. Junior Veda Cole, Lane’s top hurdler, commented on what it means to be a leader. 

“You always have girls supporting you. If you fall down, they’re definitely there to pick you right back up, especially my girls,” Cole said. “Being a leader is very important. I myself am a leader of this team, and I take pride in that.”

 As the season continues, the team is working hard to perform better at every meet and, eventually, take runners to state. They are very optimistic, as shown by sprint captain Charlotte Price. “I want to see what we can do and how far we can push,” Price said. “I want our team to win. I want us to win. It’s going to be a winning season.” 

Lane Girls Track and Field will be back in action tonight at the 19th annual Downers Grove South Mustang Relays, held at North Central College.