The boys’ and girls’ track and field teams kicked off their seasons with the COMO Opener March 17 at Battle High School. While the meet wasn’t scored for a winner, the Bruins performed remarkably well, and head coach Neil Blackburn feels sated with his runners’ performances.
“It went very well,” Blackburn said. “The big goal is to give everyone a chance to compete, feel encouraged and end the night in the same way it begins regarding your health without any injury.”
On the boys’ side, the Bruins won seven of the eight individual running events and three of the seven field events. These victories came from sophomore Martez Manual in both hurdles races, senior Eli Gaffney in the 800-meter and 1600-meter races and junior Dean Frossard in the 3200-meter race, among other RBHS runners.
The girls’ performances were dominated by old talents like junior Caroline Stevens, and seniors Jordan Banker and Ojurere Shonekan. Both teams’ displays were impressive enough to make a mark in the mind of sophomore Jilian Barnett.
“Definitely the girls first heat of the 800 [was impressive.] The top two girls were from Rock Bridge and were outstanding,” Barnett said. “Also in the boys [1600-meter] the boys stuck together as a pack and really worked together pushing each other.”
For some runners, like freshman Will Ayers, less positive memories preserve from the meet. Airs believes the meet could have run more smoothly, and the warm-ups could have been better coordinated so he and his teammates could race in their best condition.
“It impacted the team because we couldn’t properly warm-up for our events because it took too long for each heat to start of the race,” Ayers said.
While inconveniences can occur at any meet, the COMO Opener offered the benefit of an early look at the rest of the season. This sneak peak at both squads’ abilities left Blackburn feeling excited and confident for the future.
“We demonstrated a significant amount of depth yesterday which will allow us to try a variety of people in relays and open events,” Blackburn said. “Our girls have a pressing ranking of number three in the state and performed well yesterday, but our guys showed a type of dominance that wasn’t necessarily expected, which makes things very exciting for both teams.”
Not just an internal gage of skill, the meet also showed the team their competition across town.
“Last night Hickman had a few good distance and sprinters that were really talented. Battle didn’t really have a ton of amazing runners but surprisingly Tolton had a few good runners which really pushed our team,” Barnett said. “Not one particular team was huge competition but a few good runners from each team added up to be some competition.”
But both gages come with a grain of salt. After only three weeks of regular season practice, the team is feeling confident, but Barnett is concerned about the large number of inexperienced runners on the team. For Blackburn, his focus can now turn to fine-tuning his athletes, so they can end the season in perfection.
“I didn’t really see any areas of concern other than first meet types of occurrences such as not cooling down enough, eating and hydrating well,” Blackburn said. “The little things that we have to get better at in order to proceed with the bigger events down the line.”
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