SUNNYSIDE Spring was slow to get out of the starting block for this year’s track and field season, but that didn’t prevent the Grizzly team from taking their need for speed attitude outside to catch up on practice time as a result of a late winter’s kick and the cancellation of their first two meets.
“It’s been a challenge this year because of the weather. We spent a lot of time trying to get the track cleared to get the kids out here and running,” Sunnyside High School Track and Field Coach Dustin Crowe explained. “… All those times we spent indoors was building a base. And, essentially, we just got our season pushed back two weeks.”
He said maintenance personnel got the hand shovels out more than once as everyone chipped in and shoveled snow to get the squad out from the campus hallways and onto the track. They’re excited to get after the specific event training as the season gets underway.
Senior Janessa Frank, who was suffering leg, back and neck injuries as a result of a car accident a few weeks into last year’s season was motivated by her passion to get back on the track and into shape.
“I really enjoy this sport and have been running for many years. My goal last year, before the accident, was to compete at state as an individual event competitor,” Frank declared. “So, I pushed myself even more this year to reach that goal.”
The soon to be Washington State Cougar said she hopes to run the individual open 400 and 200 and is focused on regaining her competitive form. Along the way, she aspires to be a part of the girls’ relay team.
“I see track as an individual sport part of the time, but also as a team sport. Because relays you have to work together with the other girls, and you get to push each other. And, that’s a really good thing” Frank proclaimed. “That’s why I love relays… you’re not just leading yourself… you’re leading the whole team together.”
Hurdles were placed out on the track for practice run throughs as runners warmed up and worked on their technique. Junior Enrique Amara-Jasso who is also a wrestler, has been running hurdles since seventh grade. He is hoping to get to get to state this year.
“I like to work with my teammates a lot. I mean, there’ll be some practices where I just want to focus on myself because I know what I need to focus on. But I like to practice with my coaches and teammates watching so they can point things out to me to work on,” Amara-Jasso expressed. “That’s one thing I like about my coaches and teammates. They’re all helpful around here and just want you to get better.”
Amara-Jasso remembered that as a freshman he was on the track team, along with his brother, a senior at the time who inspired him to not only run hurdles but to be a better hurdler than he was.
“I wanted to be just like my brother… we got to do hurdles together and that was the best year of my life.”
“There’s no substitute for being able to be outside and let her rip,” Crowe stated.
From the football field running for yards and touchdowns after the catch to setting the speed mark for winning times on the track, junior Mike Rivera, a three-event state qualifier in the 100, 200 and relay member for the 4X100m returned to the team.
“It’s exciting because from the field you have a lot of competition that you have to break away from, but here on the track, it’s the fast lane. You’ve got to run your heart out,” Rivera exclaimed as he wrapped up practice to make his way to the weight room.
The two-sport standout said he has been training throughout the winter at (Ford Sport Performance) FSP in Seattle. After the distinguished Northwest group reached out to him, Rivera, who has collegiate Division 1 level aspirations, makes the trek every other weekend where he adheres to a specialized mentoring and conditioning regimen by lifting and building speed in preparation of transferring those special qualities from the hash marks onto the track.
“That makes me humble… because I get to bring that knowledge back here and pass it down to the others,” Rivera expressed. “… Getting the youngsters prepared to have a good season. I want them to be just as successful at it as I am. So, if we can transfer that from the track to the field every year that would be even better!”
“He’s (Rivera) good! We have really high hopes for him this year in our boys’ 4X1. And, even with our girls too, we’re really hoping that with some of the younger talent we have, they’re going to step up and have pretty solid relays,” SHS Sprint Coach Jonathan Knight acknowledged.
140 athletes, consisting of almost an equal split of 70 boys and girls, make up this season’s team. Coach Crowe described there are always kids that will be certainly missed from the previous year as they have graduated and moved on.
“We’ve got a good returning core and I’ve got a lot of ninth and tenth graders out. So, we’ve got a lot of young potential as well,” coach enthusiastically voiced. “We’ve got all our young kids trying a whole bunch of things and seeing where they fit, seeing what they like, seeing what they enjoy and seeing what they’re good at.”
The team opens its season at the Ray Cross Invitational hosted by Ephrata High School this coming Saturday.