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With track season starting today in Ketchikan, Thunder Mountain High School will be testing out yet another new sports program for the first time, and the Falcons are ready for the next challenge.
For coach Scott May, going through the rigors of starting a new program is nothing new.
May, who is also the cross country coach, said as the team jells, it will become stronger as a unit.
"I think we're looking for an identity. We went into cross country where nobody knew anybody," he said. "I think a couple of the kids knew each other, but by the time cross country ended, we were a really close group - a real team and family."
However, May said track and field is different from cross country given the separate events. He said teammates may not see much of one another during practice because they each have their own individual focus, whereas members of the cross country team all ran together.
"One of my goals is, by the time we're done, we're a close-knit group that's very supportive of one another," he said. "I have no expectations of placing right now as far as what place we're going to get in any meet."
With the program in its infancy, May said he is more concerned with the team finding itself.
"This being the first meet of the very first year of this program, the objective is for the kids to set their benchmarks, their baseline times, and we'll build on that as the season and year goes," he said. "Our focus is always on personal growth, so we need to go out and train hard and keep improving."
In Ketchikan today, the Falcons will have nine boys and nine girls in competition.
On the boys' side, sophomore Jack Clark, freshman Jackson Pavitt and sophomores Skyler Nakachi and Devin Womack will be the sprinters, while sophomores Justin Mull and Wilson Suzuki will run mostly the middle distances. Freshmen Hugh Watts and Derec Steinman will primarily run long distance. Clark, Pavitt and Steinman also will jump, and freshman Ethan Kramp will be the team's only thrower on the boys' side this weekend.
For the girls, the sprinters are senior Amanda Garner, junior Amanda Gile, sophomore Olga Lipson, freshman Shayla Reeves, junior Sydney Thorne and sophomore Evie Walker. Another junior, Rhyan Holmes, will run both middle- and long-distance races, and sophomore Kimmy Laboca and freshman Isabella Mart will throw.
"We encourage kids to try everything. Some kids know that they don't want to do this or they want to do that, but we have a number of kids coming into the season not knowing what events they wanted to do," May said. "Right now, we're kind of honing in on what people are leaning toward doing, so we have a sense about who is going to excel in what events.
"But the meets are the real test, and it's a learning experience."
May will not have his full complement of athletes at the meet in Ketchikan, but the youth of the group is evident nonetheless. Out of the 38 kids on the Thunder Mountain track roster, 28 are underclassmen.
"I'd say give us two to three years - let's get the program started and get some momentum going," May said. "We do have some competitive kids this year, and we have a lot of kids who have the potential to be extremely competitive in the future, and some immediately.
"I anticipate qualifying kids from Thunder Mountain to the state meet this year. I don't have any doubt that we will do that."