Poland Regional High School indoor track coach Rick Kramer watches his team warm up during the first part of practice earlier this week. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
POLAND — Poland indoor track assistant coach Dan Roy runs the Panther Track Club, Poland’s summer track program that has won the past four state championships.
That successful farm system has proven fruitful for Roy and the rest of Poland’s track teams, as many of school’s indoor track athletes were Panthers in past summers.
“Recently, we’ve been placing well at states, and that’s a tribute to the Panther track program and all the way up,” indoor track head coach Rick Kramer said. “Also, the kids we have are just great kids. This year will probably be our best year in a long time, just because of our depth.”
Kramer is not the only one excited about the Knights’ promising season.
“It will be close, but I think we can do it,” Kyle Greene, a former Panther track club member, said.
“Win the state championship,” Greene said. “It’s always been a goal for us, but I think that this year will be another year that we are close to getting it.”
Greene is confident in his team’s overall chances of a Class B state title. Just two seasons ago, he was a freshman as he watched Poland break the state record in the 4×200-meter relay with a time of 1:37.05 and win a state title in that event.
“They told me to win a state championship, you have to really work hard for it and it’s not going to come easy,” Greene said. “We are still young, but I think we will do well.”
Fellow relay teammate Sam Walker has been a captain for three years, but has always known that the core of the team’s success will come from its work ethic, a sentiment echoed throughout the team this year.
“Even as a freshman, I still took on the leadership role,” Walker said. “We have a lot of people that have run track in the past. We lost our senior class so it comes down to people trying as hard as they can.”
In what coach Kramer calls one of their better events in a strong team “across the board,” the girls’ 4×200-meter relay team looks to make noise using three runners from last year’s team as well as adding Katelynn Greene, a basketball transfer in her first indoor track season.
“If they have energy in practice, it changes practice,” Kramer said. “And they always have energy. When they get after it, the rest of the team does. Even the guys don’t want to be put in their place by the girls.”
The four seniors are tight-knit, which should help later in the season when placing in races comes down to communication and technique.
“We didn’t do as well as we expected last year, but this year we are hoping to do better and practice more,” Desiree Wante said. Wante was also part of the Panther track club.
“Last year we didn’t practice as much with our handoffs, so this year we are hoping to do that and be stronger,” Wante said. “Our team as a whole is really close, we look at ourselves as a family. We just work together well, we have been friends for a long time.”
In other events, Poland is looking for Olivia Ouelette and Samantha Halmos to perform in the distances, but expects to be strong in many areas, with shot put being an event that he expects to shock some people in.
It is the beginning of the season, however, and Kramer knows that success doesn’t happen overnight.
“It’s a slow-growing plant,” Kramer said. “You don’t get fast in two weeks. It’s a six-month, to a year, to a two-year process to get fast and to really change how you do things. We’re in for the long haul.”
The 2017 Poland Regional High School indoor track team and coaches gather for a team photo prior to a recent practice in the school’s gym. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Poland Regional High School’s Desiree Wante. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Poland Regional High School’s Katelynn Greene. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Poland Regional High School’s Kyle Greene. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Poland Regional High School’s Sam Walker. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)