by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle May 10, 2013
NEWPORT — It was evident that North Country Coach Gary Johnson had hoped things might turn out differently as he played master of ceremonies to the track and field competition held at North Country on Wednesday, May 8. With only three teams participating, the others being Mount Abraham and Rice Memorial, the lack of activity on the field was telling.
“We’re missing 18 kids due to the all-state music festival,” Mr. Johnson said. “But what can you do? Otherwise it’s a beautiful day to be out running, jumping and throwing.”
The loss of so many student athletes was a blow to North Country’s fortunes on the day. The Falcons were unable to field competitors in six of the boys events and seven of the girls events. Despite taking a forfeit in those events the Falcons girls finished only one point behind Mount Abraham. The boys did not fare as well trailing co-winners Rice and Mount Abraham with 68 each to the Falcons 39.
The field belonged to the Falcon girls in throwing events. The strong showing was led by Cassidy Webster and her Herculean 100-foot, eight-inch, throw on the discus. Webster’s teammates Jenna Moss and Crystal Moss picked up second and third place behind her.
Webster came into the sport largely as the result of her brother Jason who was himself a successful discus competitor. His success and encouragement inspired her to try the sport for the first time last season during her freshman year.
“After the first year I found out I really liked it,” Webster said.
As the Chronicle was to discover, there is more to track and field events than mere speed or brute force. All of the athletes revealed that technique lies at the heart of each of their events.
In the case of the discus, technique is the difference between a good throw and just churning up a lot of turf. In order to travel far the discus needs a combination of sufficient forward momentum but, also, enough angle to take advantage of the discus’ natural propensity to lift.
Achieving that lift is only possible by reaching the right release angle, Webster explained. If you release too soon the discus flies pretty much straight up and down again. Release too late and the discus crashes into the ground.
“Throwing hard helps, but if you don’t know when to release it won’t help you,” Webster said.
The influence of technique was also apparent when watching Falcon Neil DeLaBruere on the pole vault. Though only a novice to the sport, the Falcon freshman also drew on familial experience — his father Dave practiced the pole vault during his high school career. Watching pole vaulters practice their craft provides a deceptive impression of the ease of the sport. To run forward, plant the pole and throw yourself over a bar has never looked easier.
What is not apparent is the amount of strength required to execute those three simple steps. It also involves knowing when and what muscles you need to use to execute the vault, Neil DeLaBruere explained.
“At the lower heights you use more of your legs and driving your knee up and driving off your foot,” the younger DeLaBruere said. “As you go higher it’s more upper body as you actually pull yourself up and over. It’s really complex. There’s so much to it and I’m just starting to learn a lot of it.”
Technique plays an equally large role in the long jump. What might come as a bit of a surprise is the fact that some of the technique is purely mental. Prior to the actual sand pit, two solid white lines are painted on the runway. These markings indicate the maximum forward distance the athlete can run prior to jumping.
These lines also serve as an athletes choice of one of two jumping off points. Why would an athlete choose the furthest of the two lines, the Chronicle asked?
“The measurement is always taken based on the line you jumped from,” Falcon Laura Smith said. “So you do need to tell the judges which line you are using before you jump. Why would you do that? Well, it’s based on how far you think you can jump.”
The furthest line back places the athlete much closer to the edge of the runway on a short jump. Landing that close to the edge could result in a loss of dignity at best or a nasty injury at worst.
“Knowing you have to jump further pushes you to make a longer jump,” Falcon Jade Dandurand said.
The further line is also used in triple jumps because it gives the athlete more space in the sand pit before hitting the outside edge, Smith said.
The ability to focus on technique owes a large measure to the changes that North Country’s track and field facilities have undergone in the last two years. Gone is the dirt track that was perhaps better suited to mini-bike races than hurdles and sprints and gone are the wobbly long jump runways.
“It was pretty rough back when I was doing track and field,” Dave DeLaBruere said. “When I started the pole vault we had sawdust, old tires and steel poles. We thought we were doing good when they gave us a bag of foam.”
The track had remained essentially unchanged from the time the school was built. As a result it has languished behind some of the other Division I schools. The track conditions had deteriorated to the point that some schools refused to participate in events at North Country for fear of the conditions of the facilities, Mr. DeLaBruere said.
“No one wants to send their kids somewhere where they might get hurt,” Mr. DeLaBruere said. “As a parent I would be afraid of letting my kid participate here. I’m just really glad they made that investment to keep the program running.”
Though only a junior, Laura Smith recalls the old track conditions. As an athlete she said she feels far more comfortable competing on the new facilities.
“I definitely feel a lot safer here,” Smith said. “It also makes me feel good to know that enough people cared about our safety to do this for us.”
Co-head coach Gary Johnson helped lead the effort to make the investment in the new facilities. As a long-time coach and advocate for the track program Mr. Johnson pushed to ensure that the grounds would be brought up to a level the school and the community could be proud of.
“We had paths intersecting, the track was rutted and some of the runways were just plain dangerous,” Mr. Johnson said. “It took a lot of work and a lot of effort by a lot of people but we got it done. I think we will get a lot of good years out of what we built.”
Nicholas Perkins’ 35-foot, six-inch, shot put throw earned him top honors in boys competition. Teammates Joe Wade and Tristan Farrow picked up third and fourth place respectively. In the boys’ discus Perkins, Farrow and Wade would finish second, third and fourth respectively. Sam Brunette’s time of 4:31.9 was enough to earn him top spot in the 1,500-meter event. Neil DeLaBruere took top spot in the boys pole vault with an eight foot vault. Connor Hogan took second place in the boys 400 meter.
In girls shot put Cassidy Webster, Jenna Moss, Crystal Moss and Ellie Searles finished first, second, third and fourth respectively behind Webster’s 35 foot, six inch throw. The Falcons also placed well in the girls 400 meter with Briana Bonnell placing first with a time of 1:12.5. Falcons Britni Jewer and Emilie Paul captured third and fourth place in the event. In the girls javelin event Morgan Greene took first with a 79-foot, four-inch, throw while Myrriah Gonyaw and Briana Bonnell finished third and fourth respectively. In the girls 200-meter event Jade Dandurand finished second.
Contact Richard Creaser at [email protected]