In preparation for upcoming regional meets this June, Walpole Middle School Track has been practicing since the spring season began. The combined team of Johnson Middle School and Bird Middle School students meet every Tuesday and Thursday at the Walpole High School track. The athletes break off into groups to experiment with their favorite events, as well as participate in fun games and relays with each other. Head Coach Fiona Murphy, along with Coach Antonietta O’Toole help these students grow during the season by fostering an environment where they are comfortable to try new things and meet new people, and allowing them to choose the events in which they want to participate in their first meet couple meets.
“We have a lot of great kids who come not knowing much about track or cross country, but they come with an open mind, and they come with the willingness to try new things,” said Murphy.
Murphy focuses her coaching on learning the fundamentals of proper running and the basics of certain field events. She creates a flexible setting for all students to develop an interest in different events.
In the same fashion, the team also prepares the students socially. The merge of middle schools comes within the next year or few years, and with the help of the combined school sport, athletes can learn new friendships and build positive team chemistry.
“I don’t mind having a lot of kids,” said JMS student Ryan Fowkes.
He enjoys working with other middle school students and is not alone. Most of the team agrees with him, and has enjoyed meeting students from the other middle school.
“I like the mix between students,” said JMS student Grace Hogarty.
Bonding with teammates has a lasting impact, which contributes to the athletes’ familiarity with each other in later years in high school.
“A lot of friendships I’ve seen have lasted from middle school onto the high school, especially if they continue doing track in the high school,” said Murphy.
Friends Ava Casey and Hogarty participate in Middle school track and plan to continue in high school, as they enjoy learning new skills and experimenting with different activities. At a younger age, they are learning new efficiencies of running to prepare them for high school.
“ I’ve learned how to maintain [my] pace,” said Casey.
Although some of the athletes are undecided of their future in the sport, they are thankful for the valuable skills that track teaches them for other sports.
“I’ve learned how to jump better,” said JMS student Will McLellan.
Although McLellan plans on playing tennis at the high school, he sees the long-term benefits from skills he learned from the long jump.
Murphy and O’Toole both aspire for success at their meets in June from all the hard work this season. The program hopes to continue developing future runners and athletes alike.
“That’s a big part of track—the willingness to do it and the love of the sport,” Murphy said.