Covenant’s newest sport, track and field, is entering its second official season this Spring. The sport officially began during the 2016-17 school year, although the cross country team had already been running in some spring track meets.
“We did pretty well for our first year,” said Coach Katie Stanford. “We had enough athletes to fill full teams for both men and women.”
Cross country, which has been a Covenant sport for decades, provided a base to start the team with distance runners. The team also began with several sprinters and jumpers and is slowly adding more field events. The javelin throw and hurdles are new events for Covenant this year.
Most of the cross country runners also run track.
“One of the reasons we started track is that we knew it would help strengthen cross country,” Stanford said. “After the first season, it really showed. We brought in a lot more distance runners, and our [returning] distance runners improved a lot.”
Both mens’ and womens’ cross country teams are coming off their strongest seasons in Covenant’s history, with second place finishes for both teams at their conference meet and setting program records with 12th place finishes at regionals.
Stanford expects the returning track-only athletes to improve this season as well.
“The returners have a better idea of what they’re going to do well in,” said runner Matthew Tueller (’19). “We’re a lot more focused this year.”
Training year round, being able to be coached for a lot of the year, and having a competitive track season in the spring as well as the fall cross country season helps the runners improve, Stanford said.
Team dynamics also play a role in a successful season. “Last year, the distance runners and sprinters meshed really well together,” Stanford said.
Track doesn’t have as much history as the cross country program, but runner Lilly Smith (’19) is excited to be a part of starting the program.
“We get to start out at the beginnings and set those records so the program can continue from there,” Smith said.
The team has already had one week of practice this semester, and will begin practicing again on January 15.
Even though the team is not officially practicing right now, the runners stay in shape by training on their own, Smith said.
Because there is so much variety in track and field events, “We’re all in different training groups,” said runner Hannah Samuels (’19). “We’re all detailing our specific events as opposed to cross country where we pretty much are doing the same things.”
Since Covenant does not have its own track, the team goes to nearby tracks at Dade County High School or Chattanooga Christian School a few times a week, but they also run on campus or around the area.
Stanford said it’s not uncommon for schools to have track and field programs without a track.
“U.T.C. doesn’t have a track; they use Girls Preparatory School’s track,” Stanford said. “So many schools don’t have a track.”
However, Covenant plans to build a track at some point in the future, Stanford said.
This coming season will bring one indoor meet in February, as well as a number of outdoor meets in March and April.
“The indoor meet is a great way to see where we're at as we go into the outdoor part of track season,” said runner Micah Sneller (‘19). “Since it's our first meet, and it's an indoor meet, we see it as a way to gauge ourselves based on the other competitors.”
Track and field actually has both an indoor and outdoor season, though Covenant is only sponsoring an outdoor season at this point, Stanford said.
“When you run in college, there are three seasons,” Stanford said. Cross country runs from August to November, indoor track from December to March, and outdoor track from March to May.
The track and field teams will end their season at the end of April with a conference meet at Berea College in Kentucky.
The U.S.A. South Conference, to which Covenant belongs, does not yet have a high enough percentage of schools participating to sponsor a track and field conference meet, Stanford said.
“Until then, the schools that do are putting together an independent conference championship,” Stanford said. The meet will help the team see how they stack up against other schools in the conference.
As the track team trains, returner Zach Atchison (’18) is excited to see what happens this season.
“Since we have more of a base, we have school records that we can try to break, and we can break personal season bests,” Atchison said.