The return of track and field to the Foxcroft spring athletic program after a 12-year absence was a huge success, like running the mile in under four minutes or clearing a 7-foot high jump. And the future looks even more promising.
Out of 19 girls who were members of the team, 15 of them qualified for the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association’s state championships on Saturday, May 18, in Richmond. All are underclassmen, including seven freshmen, seven sophomores and one junior. There were no senior competitors on the roster.
Adding track and field to the sports program was the idea of cross country coach Matt Mohler, who coached the track and field program in 2007 and was hoping to get the chance to do it again. An increased enrollment and the addition of the new turf fields was the stimulus he needed.
“Matt and I were chatting one day about the fields and I told him we were adding the track around the outside of the turf fields and were going to stripe it,” athletic director Michelle Woodruff said. “He immediately asked what I thought about adding a track and field team. I loved the idea. I thought there would probably be 10 or so girls interested. Boy was I wrong! We had to close sign ups! I don’t really think it hurt any of our other teams. Maybe one or two kids left lacrosse or soccer but I wasn’t and still am not concerned. I believe it only adds to our program.”
Mohler, who admitted he knew nothing about how to coach track and field back in 2007 but has since gotten his track and field certification, said Trinity Christian School’s annual dominance in cross country during the fall was a main reason he suggested that Foxcroft put together a track and field team.
“I started to get tired of Trinity outclassing us in cross country and I saw the main reasons being that they have a middle school feeding into their program and that their runners run all year round because, among other things, they have track and field in the spring,” Mohler said.
With so many events, though, he needed an assistant. Verna Stern, a friend of Woodruff’s, stepped in to help with the long distance runners. An accomplished runner who has competed in 22 marathons, Stern took the distance runners on long runs and worked with the entire team on flexibility and mental approach.
The program has succeeded far beyond expectations in its first year. The team participated in five meets and had one second-place finish and two third-place finishes and scored 12 points in the State Championships
to finish 18th out of 25 Division II schools.
“The immediate success did surprise me but that only made me feel more confident about adding it,” Woodruff said. “I am thrilled for the girls and have had really nice conversations with many of their family members about how pleased they are that we added it. With the number of successful freshmen on the team I see it lasting for at least four years but hopefully it becomes a mainstay for our spring sports.”
The athletes, too, are enthusiastic.
“I have really enjoyed my experience with track and field,” said freshman Elizabeth S., who qualified for the states in the shot put. “I learned the importance of self-improvement and how I am capable of much more than expected.”
Freshman Gracen K., who qualified for the state championships in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and the high jump, had participated in track and field in middle school and was delighted when she heard that the sport had been added to the spring program.
“The season was a lot of fun,” Gracen said, “and Mr. Mohler and the team grew and learned a lot along the way. I think we will come back next year as an even better team.”