Taken out of the running...

PikeView’s Erin O’Sullivan hands the relay baton to teammate Catherine Stress during the Concord University High School Invitational in spring of 2018.

GARDNER — Getting athletes motivated to train on their own is something most high school coaches struggle with, but it is important in track and field.

Coaches cannot be watching every athlete on the team at the same time so every team member must have the motivation to continue practicing to become the best they can.

“Coaches help but it’s the kids that get out there and do it on their own is the ones that’s going to really excel,” said PikeView High School track and field coach David Coburn.

Members of the PikeView team definitely have the motivation as they continued to workout throughout the winter to be ready for the first meet of the season but never got to run in a meet with the coronavirus pandemic canceling the season.

After all the effort the Panthers put into preparing for the season and not being able to compete, Coburn feels bad for the team.

“They ran all winter long just to be in shape and be ready when the season started and I try to not think about it and keep it off my mind cause you get to thinking about it a lot it’ll drive you nuts,” Coburn said.

Over winter Coburn was focused on his role as an assistant coach for the PikeView girls basketball team but the runners would stop by to see him no matter the conditions.

“I’d be at basketball practice and they come by and holler. They even ran when it was snowing so I just hate something like this happening,” Coburn said.

The team was motivated to improve on how many would qualify for this year’s state meet and improve on placing for the ones that went there in past years.

“I think last year we took about 20 kids to the state meet and I was thinking this year we probably take more than that,” Coburn said.

There was only one top-six placing for PikeView at the 2019 state meet but they were a young team that continued to develop throughout the fall. They were looking forward to contesting for state titles this year.

“We had a couple kids that I think could have been state champions this year,” Coburn said.

Senior Cole Christian and junior Eric O’Sullivan were the top returners for the Panthers both holding school records. Christian holds the school record in the 300 meter hurdles along with a sixth-place finish in the long jump at the state meet hoping to set a few more records in his final season.

“He had broke a school record and hopefully he was going to break it again and he had a chance to break two more school records cause he’s right there,” Coburn said.

O’Sullivan is one of the best long distance runners in the state with top-ten finishes in her two state meets while also placing third at the cross country state meet last fall.

A key to helping the team improve is by taking them to the best meets in the area. The Panthers are able to see how they stack up against the competition and what they need to work on to reach the level of the top competitors.

“What we try to do is go to some of the bigger meets. That way you get better competition, plus the kids can see where they need to work to get better to make it to the state meet,” Coburn said.

Having members of the team holding school records and working to set more, it motivates the entire team to raise their level and continue getting better.

“That’s the key, that’s how you build a program, you have kids always trying to strive to beat school records,” Coburn said.

Gage Damewood decided to try out pole vaulting last year and made it to the state meet. This caught the interest of a freshman this year who wanted to join Damewood in that event.

That will have to wait another year. Without access to PikeView’s track facilities, it is difficult to learn. Not many people have the space, much less the capability to build a pole vault at home.

“You gotta do it at the school because you can’t build something like that at your house,” Coburn said.

— Contact sports@bdtonline.com

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