Increased numbers propel Eagle track and field team

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Track and field is on the rise at Canton-Galva High School.

The Eagles’ program has seen participants swell from just six athletes last year to 25 this spring.

“It’s kind of strange because we typically have between 35 and 40 kids out for track in middle school,” said Brian Deterding, director of athletics and assistant track coach.

“We just want kids to get involved one way or another. We’ve had a lot of kids in the spring that typically felt like they didn’t need to do anything, and that’s hurt us in a lot of sports.”

Reasons for the dramatic increase are as plentiful as the people you talk to at the school.

“In a small school, it sometimes cycles through like that, and we just had a couple of classes where kids didn’t go out,” said Randall Rogers, who shares the head-coaching position with Mark Martens.

“I just push sports in general and I’d really like to see kids participate in three sports,” Rogers added.

Rogers said the student-athlete seems to focus more when involved in athletics.

“When you’re in activities, you better be busting it or you’ll get behind, and you won’t get to play,” he said.

“It seems like some kids who aren’t in sports have too much idle time, and they just don’t have deadlines.”

According to Deterding, the rising numbers are attributable to a rising number of under classmen who have opted to participate.

“We have a lot of freshmen who participated in middle school that have come out this year,” he said. “We only have 10 upperclassmen out for track, so it’s mainly the younger kids who increased our numbers.”

Although the numbers for track have risen, baseball and softball numbers haven’t suffered, Deterding said.

“We’re not really drawing kids away from other sports-it’s just getting kids who haven’t been doing anything for the most part,” he said. “One of the biggest reasons our numbers have jumped too is the addition of Mr. Martens.”

Martens comes to Canton-Galva after spending two years at Wichita East High School.

In his first year as art instructor at Canton-Galva, Martens served as assistant football coach last fall and brings added vigor as co-head coach of track and field.

“Mr. Martens has really pushed to help build the numbers in track,” Deterding said.

“I think he’s been more persistent talking to these kids. He just loves track, so from day one he’s been pushing track.”

Martens, in fact, will resurrect the Canton-Galva cross country program next fall after a 24-year absence.

“He’s been hitting a lot of those distance-runner types, and he’s had good success doing that.”

Martens said numerous lessons can be learned by participating in track.

“My main selling point to get kids out for track is to show them it’s one sport they can improve individually and not necessarily have to count on somebody else on the team,” he said. “They can have individual improvement, and I base their progress on their personal records.

“They may get fifth in a race, but if they cut three seconds off their time, they’re excited about it-and that shows success.”

Enthusiasm, according to Martens, is contagious.

“I get excited when someone sets a new personal record, and once I’m excited about it, they can’t help but get excited themselves,” Martens said. “It’s like taking a class and starting out with an F and pretty soon you’re up to a C.”

Rogers said track is one sport where competition comes from within each athlete.

“If you don’t get better, there’s no one to blame but yourself,” he said. “It’s kind of like golf. You’re really competing against yourself and trying to get better-and when you do, it’s a great feeling.”

Adding to the challenges of rebuilding the track program is the track itself-or lack thereof.

“The dilemma is how to build a strong track program without a real track,” Martens said. “We have a dirt oval around the football field with small gravel on top-no markings, no lanes, no curbs, no anything.

“We can’t even think of hosting a meet at our school because of this. We’re having to rent the track at Moundridge in order to host a meet.”

Martens said it’s sometimes discouraging to see other schools’ facilities, but he still manages to find that proverbial silver lining.

“We do a lot of running on the grass, which helps limit shin splints and some injuries,” he said.

Deterding said no track upgrades are planned for near future.

“It would be nice to have our own track,” he said. “But it’s tough in a school our size-not knowing the numbers you’ll have from year to year-to spend that kind of money on a track.”

Getting the athletes to take the sport seriously hasn’t been a problem, according to Martens.

“Their work ethic is really good,” he said. “No one has quit, which is really nice. They’re all showing up on time and working hard.”

While it’s too early to tell whether Canton-Galva has state-caliber competitors, Martens said numerous athletes have potential.

“We have a freshman, Brandon Shannon, who never ran a lick in his life but shows great promise as does Nick Wedel, a sophomore,” he said.

“Amanda Roberts is a junior middle and long distance runner who hasn’t been out because of health issues. She’s stepping up and being a good leader for us.”

In addition to the 25 high school athletes, the middle school also fields 40 athletes, posing a challenge since all train together.

A fourth coach, Sue Unruh, is also on staff.

“Each of us coaches have our own event-specific workouts and we divide the kids,” Martens said. “The middle school kids work out with the high school kids and that establishes a sense of competitiveness because the high schoolers don’t want to get beat by middle schoolers.”

Only time will tell where the track-and-field program numbers will go in the future, but Martens hopes the direction is positive.

“If we can retain these 14 freshmen for four years and add that many in each class, the math tells you we’d have 56 out by the time they’re seniors,” he said.

Martens said the benefits to other Eagle sports spill over from the track program too.

“It’s aerobic conditioning,” he said. “We don’t mind if kids go out just to stay in shape for other sports. It’s participation, and that builds tradition.”

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