A `no-track' record

A glaring lack of facilities could not keep a determined Harford Tech team from capturing a division title

Track and Field

May 13, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special To The Sun

Nine large green trash cans that are rusting along the top sit along the sides of the Harford Tech football/lacrosse field. At first glance, the school appears to have gone on some kind of cleaning binge, but the cans serve an unconventional purpose.

They're the school's "track."

Harford Tech is a rarity, a high school without a track, which forces the Cobras into some unusual training situations.

But despite those obstacles, the Harford Tech boys won the first track and field championship in school history about two weeks ago. The Cobras captured the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Susquehanna Division championship, easily beating Edgewood.

Harford Tech is the only county high school without a track. Ken Zorbach, acting county supervisor of physical education and athletics, said a proposal for a football stadium and track at the school has been placed on hold.

"That just makes it even better," senior Anthony Rose said. "We lack the facilities, but we still have the heart to win. [I learned] to never give up. If you want something, then you go out and get it. We make do with what we have."

Harford Tech hadn't been a force in track until the past few years. The Cobras never even won a dual meet until two years ago. But co-coaches Michael Griffith and Krista Koenig found a group of determined athletes who decided to work hard despite not having a track.

Of course, the Cobras have to work in a different way from most schools. That's where the trash cans come in.

"I tried to map out what a track would be like on the field so they can actually simulate workouts," Griffith said. "It's hard to do the timing, that's the toughest part about it."

The Cobras train mostly on the fields and trails and hills behind and around Harford Tech. Griffith said he also uses a lot of interval work - conditioning the body to run at a certain speed for short distances to simulate the actual race - to gauge progress. The sprinters also run on the fields.

A track isn't the only thing the Cobras are lacking, either. The hurdlers work with creaky hurdles that have clearly seen better days, and the jumpers practice in a small hand-dug pit that leaves little room for error.

On the other side of the trees, there's an area to practice throws, with a new screen just installed thanks to funding from the school's booster club. Discus throwers could use the circle but were not allowed to spin for safety reasons.

They also can't have pole-vaulters because of a lack of equipment and practice facilities, putting them at a competitive disadvantage in every meet.

The Cobras, who have a total of 50 boys and girls on the team, occasionally use Harford Community College's track - it's right across the street - and other schools often offer them use of their tracks. Harford Tech took up Havre de Grace's offer and went there about once a week for the past few weeks, something the coaches thought helped the kids.

"Our kids are incredible," Koenig said. "They take what we have, and they work with it. The fact that I have kids hurdling on grass never stops them from wanting to practice. The fact that they're jumping into a little sand pit ... our kids take that and push it to the next level."

The Harford Tech boys thought they had a chance to win the divisional championship since they'd beaten each team during the regular season. They finished second last year, but got big efforts this season from Rose, Dana Smothers, Aaron Diamond, Shawn Stone, Mike Tyson and Robert Bakers to compile 154 points, well ahead of Edgewood (100). The girls finished third.

"They just go with the flow, and they're really good kids ... and they won't complain," Griffith said. "They'll complain about my workouts being too hard, but they don't complain one bit about not being on a track."

Track team members do fundraising during the winter and in season to get money for needed items and occasionally have to be hands-on once the items are acquired. The runway for the long jump cost about $1,000, and they had to install it, flatten it and obtain the gravel and sand.

The seniors said they aren't bitter about not getting their chance to run on a track but hope their efforts truly laid the track's foundation.

It's also why winning a championship without a track means that much more to this team.

"I think [a track] will help in the future because other kids can look back and see what we did as a team, winning a championship without a track," said Diamond, a senior. "I'm proud of it. The whole team is proud of it."

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