The first track meet of the season will be held in Farmington this Saturday, March 8.
Track practice began Feb. 24, with 28 boys and 18 girls currently on the team.
This year’s team will be under the direction of a new head coach, Connie O’Donnell, with returning assistant coaches Sabra Miller and Clint Shaw.
Miller returns as throwing and high jump coach, with Shaw back coaching long jump and triple jump.
In addition to being the new head coach, O’Donnell will take on distance coaching, with the help of former distance coach J.D. Kurz.
For personal reasons, both Kurz and former head coach Scott White were unable to return to the team this year, which left PSHS with two empty coaching positions until the week before practice was set to begin.
“I’ve been wanting to get back into it — I love track,” said O’Donnell during a recent phone interview. “Even though I’ve been wanting to get back into it, it was still short notice,” she laughed.
O’Donnell was a likely candidate to take over the team due to her previously coaching experience. O’Donnell served as track head coach for 12 years prior to 2010 and currently coaches volleyball.
Since she has been absent from the track team for the past four years, O’Donnell said that none of the current athletes have any experience with her as a track coach.
“It’s always a big deal when there is a coaching change-up,” she said. “I need to work on earning [the athletes’] trust and respect. And I’m okay with that.”
The one place where the coaching change-up seems to have already had an impact is on the boy’s team. O’Donnell said that the team lost “some key guys” who decided not to come out this year.
However, O’Donnell did mention that junior Tate Drane has elected to return. Drane was a qualifier in the 400 last season and is expected to do well again this year.
Several key female athletes will be returning this year, making the girls’ team one to watch.
Seniors Emily Bryant and Taylor Strohecker are back as competitors, both previous qualifiers in the 1600 and 3200, and high jump respectively.
Sophomore Madi Lewis has also elected to return; Lewis was a state qualifier last year as a freshman in the 400, 800, and 4×2 relay.
Though the season started off with big changes, O’Donnell is optimistic about the team coming together.
She said, “I’d really like to focus this year on just being a good teammate.”
Normally, in track, O’Donnell said, athletes know their immediate teammates in their events, but pay little attention to peers competing in other events.
“I’m encouraging all of the athletes to know all of the other athletes,” O’Donnell said — to know their fellow teammates’ times and events.
This year, the emphasis is on the team.