With only one twentieth of the entire team having four years of track and field experience under their collective belts, one might say that the Brookings-Harbor High School track and field team is young in terms of experience.
But according to Head Coach Jim Keys, what they lack in experience, they make up for in desire.
“Biggest difference this year is a lot of inexperienced kids,” he explained. “I won’t say young kids because we have a number of seniors, juniors and sophomores who have never come out for track. A lot of inexperienced kids.”
Keys is a first-year head coach, so one might assume that he is just as inexperienced as the majority of the athletes, but he has been helping the former head coach Joe Sthen for the past eight years, and has an assistant coaching staff – including Sthen – who have been together for a number of years.
Terry and Cathy Axel are returning in their roles as throwing and jumping coaches and BHHS graduate Amy Axel is helping with the distance runners.
One of the struggles that Keys faces with so many new-to-the-sport athletes is where to have them compete.
“We’re just trying to find the events that are best for them,” he said. “We keep trying them out until we figure out what they’re going to do at districts.”
Athletes are allowed to choose in which events they would like to participate, but they are also asked to compete in certain events by coaches.
“We try to steer them into an event that we thing they would be successful in,” Keys said. “Usually the success will bring them back to that event.”
Senior Chandler Gotfried, one of only two, four-year athletes on the team, is keenly aware of the fact that his team is so young.
“We have a lot of young people and I believe that by the time they’re juniors and seniors they’ll be a really good group,” he said. “I think they might even be better than the last couple of years.”
Gotfried has been a track athlete for all four years of his high school career and plans to compete in the 4x100-meter relay, 100-meter dash, triple jump and javelin.
“Javelin is my favorite,” he said.
When asked about his goals for the season, Gotfried was adamant in his desire to go to the state championships.
“I want to go to state this year, by all means,” he said. “I don’t care if I have to stay for an hour after practice, or go sit in the gym for an hour, I just want to make it to state in any event.”
The other four-year senior is Kelsa Northrup who has been to the state tournament twice in two of the four events she is competing in this year, the high jump and the 4x100-meter relay, but her favorite is the high jump because according to her, “I’m really good at it.”
“My goal is to place at state this year,” Northrup said. “I can make it to state, but I just choke because it is so nerve-racking. So I just want to go there, jump for me, and see how I do.
“As long as I make it, I’ll be proud.”
Northrup also competes in the 100-meter dash and the long jump and, according to Keys, she has a great chance at qualifying for state in multiple events.
Seniors Jose Hernandez and John Joyce round out the four members of the graduating class and neither have been part of the BHHS track and field program, but they do have something in common: soccer.
“I came out because I was kind of fast in soccer, and my knees healed up,” Hernandez said of his reasons. “That and my friend John (Joyce) came out and said we should do it together.”
Hernandez plans to compete in the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes, long jump and high jump.
“My goal is to make it to state,” Hernandez said. “I think I have a pretty high chance because at my first meet when I thought I would do horrible, I took second place in the 200.”
Joyce is a newcomer to BHHS track and field but not to the sport itself.
“I ran when I was a freshman and sophomore,” Joyce explained.
Joyce has plans to run in the 4x100 relay, the 100-meter dash, the 4x400 relay and jump the long jump, but this year will mark the first time he will compete in those events.
“I used to do long distance,” Joyce explained. “I switched because I was playing soccer and I was kind of fast, so I thought I would try the sprints.”
Joyce’s goal is similar to his senior teammates, to make it to state, but he plans to do it with the help of his fellow relay runners.
“I think my odds are all right,” Joyce said, “because our 4x100 team is pretty good and our 4x400 team has a lot of potential.”
While the young blood is a little intimidating, Keys is excited by the team’s desire to work hard and achieve their goals.
“The team works really hard,” Keys said. “This is the first year that we’ve had kids stay late at practice on a fairly consistent basis.
“They stay late and they’re working on things, they’re not sitting in the stands talking. They’re out there doing something and wanting to know what else they can work on.”
Outside of qualifying as many kids for state as he can, one of Keys’ goals is to get athletes to come back out for track next year.
“We’re looking to get as many kids to state as we can from districts,” he said. “But one of our goals is for the athletes to have enough fun at track that they want to come back again next year.”
The team’s schedule can be found in the March 24 edition of the Pilot and they compete today in Crescent City at Del Norte High School.