Austin boys track and field team takes a team approach

Published 9:31 pm Friday, May 1, 2009

They can run fast, they can run with a strong pace, and they can even jump and throw.

The Austin boys track and field team is off to a great start this year and it’s not just one or two standouts carrying the load – it’s a bevy of athletes in various events getting it done.

It’s no coincidence the team is performing well as they put in a lot of time to prepare for the upcoming season.

Email newsletter signup

“A lot of guys did a lot in the offseason so we’d have more of a complete team,” said Tim Erickson, a junior who has run the 800-meter run in two minutes and has jumped 40-feet, seven inches in the triple jump. “Our team goal is always to make it to true team state, so we’re all trying to get there together.”

While their running styles differ, the training styles also differed for the track team over the offseason. While distance runner Kyle Dammen took up cross country skiing, and high jumper Marcus Gunderson and Erickson stayed in shape with basketball, sprinter Michael Hirsch found a different way to get faster.

“In wrestling, when we get in trouble we have to run around with the kettlebell,” said Hirsch, a junior who has run the 100-meter dash in 11.48 seconds, the 200-meter dash in 23.06 seconds and thrown the shot put 45-5. “My time has gone down a lot from last year.”

While they have improved on their speed from last year, the team has also grown closer — so close that they opened a recent practice with a game of kick ball. That has helped the Packers win four Invites so far this season.

“A lot of people think of track as an individual sport, but they’re a pretty close team and when you have the success we’ve had early on it makes for good team bonding for the kids,” Austin head coach Tony Einertson said. “It’s fun when you can announce on the bus that we’ve won the meet. We haven’t been able to do that in the last few years.”

Kyle Dammen, a senior who has run the 3200-meter run in 10:02 and the 1600-meter run in 4:30, said that bond has helped lift the whole team’s spirits.

“I’ve noticed the team’s gotten a lot stronger in supporting each other,” he said.

The Packers have advanced to the ‘true team’ state meet for three of the past years and the day of reckoning for this year’s team comes on Wednesday when they will compete in the ‘true team’ section meet at Red Wing at 3:15 p.m. Along with Austin, Stewartville and Plainview/Elgin/Milville will be contenders to get to state (the top two teams advance).

“The true team section meet is our first obstacle and both of those teams match up well with us,” Einertson said.

The Packers have a strong balance on their team as junior Will Darling returns as a state representative in the 110-meter hurdles, junior Henry Darling provides a lift in sprints and senior Marcus Gunderson has been tough in the high jump, with a season best height of 6-1.

“My goal is to keep going up every inch I can,” said Gunderson, whose only event is high jump. “A lot of the pressure is kind of off when you only have one event to work on. It’s pretty easy on yourself because you can just focus on that event.”

As far as getting individuals to the state track and field meet June 5-6, Einertson said Erickson has an outside shot in the 800-meter run, Will Darling could return in the hurdles, and the 4 x400-meter relay team and 4 x 200 meter relay teams also have a chance.

Austin will also host the Big Nine meet May 22 at 10 a.m.

“The kids are gonna represent Austin pretty well and we’re excited to have it here,” Einertson said. “It’s one of the best tracks in the area and with the boys performing the way they are it will be a good experience for them.”