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Wolfpack runners taking indoor track

December 26, 2012
The Crawford County boys' and girls' track teams are working to get a head start on the spring season by taking their game to several indoor meets and clinics. The teams are already seeing some successes that they hope to carry over when the official season starts in a few months.

"When I got the job, I knew, if we were going to build this program, you've got to do indoor," Crawford County boys' coach Jeff Balmer said. "Any good program in the state does indoor, and last year we had 15, 18 kids sign up. This year we've got 37. The kids love it. They love it, and it's paying dividends."

Crawford County’s Kaitlin Tincher, left, and Shawna Johnson proudly wear their first-place medals after winning the long jump and high jump, respectively, during an indoor jumps meet at Wabash College recently. Photo courtesy of Ann Stratton
There is a considerable difference between indoor and outdoor meets. The first is a shorter track of just 200 meters compared to the outdoor 400-meter tracks. Some events, like the high hurdles, are shortened to 60 meters instead of 110 and a 3,200-meter run turns into 16 laps instead of the normal eight. The other big difference is not having to deal with weather issues.

"The air is different," Balmer said. "That's one of the big things I get from kids: it's drier. They dry out a lot quicker because of the air conditioning or heating. You pack in several hundred people and it gets hot in a place like that. It gets real hot."

"You're not freezing to death, which is good," sophomore sprinter and jumper Kaitlin Tincher said. "It's just different. Usually, we're used to the outdoors. I've never experienced anything like this. The environment is different. It definitely makes it more fun."

"I'd say I like the indoor better because it's a new atmosphere and something different to try," junior Shawna Johnson said. "Also, we have more places to go rather than local schools around here. It's also better because, when you're outdoor, you don't know if you're going to have cold weather, and it's so hard to jump when your legs are all frozen up and your knees want to lock up."

Training for indoor meets is considerably different. Sprints can be practiced in the hallways but hurdles can't be set up. Distance training can be done around the school. Jumps can't be done inside, but there are other things that can be done to prepare as far as training and conditioning.

"We've been doing a lot of lunges with the dumbbells lately," Johnson said. "I think that's going to help because you do need your leg strength, and we're also working on arms and doing other stepping techniques out in the hallways, high knees and stuff like that, which is really good for high jumpers because you need to make sure you can kick your knee up really hard. A lot of it is going to be a lot of leg work."

Christian Academy of Indiana coach Ann Stratton also has been helping the team with a new form of yoga that may not be for the average person.

"We've doing yoga that's more like yoga on steroids," junior hurdler Travis Banet said. "It's not your stereotypical yoga class that you see on TV. It's more you're straining. You're trying to keep your muscles tight for long periods of time and you're sweating while you're doing it."

"It's not what I call yoga," Johnson said. "It's like a complete workout. It's like snapping, one after another, keep going all the time. It's a little bit rough, but it's going to help our abs and knees and all that strength in your stomach to get yourself over the bar. You've got to hold it. So, that's going to help a lot."

Balmer said the response to the indoor meets has been better than expected, with runners and parents both eager to get involved.

"From the time I started cross country practice for junior high, kids and parents were asking, 'When are we starting indoor?' " he said. "Quite literally every day I was out here, a kid or parent or somebody was asking me, texting me or messaging me on Facebook, 'When do we start indoor?' "

Balmer also has been getting help from Joey Speece and former Wolfpack track star Warren Bye, who is now coaching at the University of South Florida.

"Joey Speece has been invaluable," Balmer said. "He's our assistant coach in charge of throws, and he's just so good in the weight room. We've got a great weight room here at the school, so having Joey show up here during cross country and saying, 'Do you need any help in track?,' I said, 'Absolutely.' He has been a great asset."

The successes already have come with wins in the long jump by Tincher and high jump by Johnson at a recent Wabash College indoor meet. Tincher jumped 14 feet, 1 inch to secure that win but is hoping to meet the state indoor standard of 14-6 and get into the indoor state finals. Distance runner Cody Carlton and thrower Michelle Smith qualified for last year's indoor state finals.

"The state standard for indoor is 14-6, so I'm really close to it," Tincher said. "My goal is definitely 14-7 and, hopefully, longer than that. It will just let me know that I've gone farther, and it will help me for outdoor. I'll jump farther in outdoor, hopefully."

Johnson had high jumped in junior high school, clearing 5-3. She played softball during her first two years of high school and was unable to jump. In the Wabash meet, she cleared five feet to win but also got some tips from other jumpers and coaches that now have given her a mindset to break the school record of 5-4.

"They told me the way I was going up to (the bar) was completely weird because I would go up to it and lose all my momentum," Johnson said. "As I went around for the curve, I would step out trying to kick myself to go inside. I was actually losing all the momentum I had built up."

Johnson said the tips she was given proved to be the difference in how she's jumping now and she has her sights set on some big goals.

"I can probably get the high school record, because the school record is 5-4," she said. "They said they could see me going to state, a lot of the coaches down there. They said they'll look around for my name and look forward to seeing me in state."

Banet said that while they may not be able to do certain things at the school, the training from the indoor meets will carry over to the spring outdoor season to make all of the runners better prepared.

"It carries over a lot to the outdoor season because this was a three- or four-month period I had to run on my own," he said. "Obviously, I'm not going to go home and run as much with school and work going on. ... If I schedule it into my days, then I've got three or four months extra practice on top of it. I go into it prepared into spring season."

There is also the boost in confidence that comes out of the indoor meets.

"It really boosts it a lot," Tincher said. "In my last track season, my confidence was way down, and I'm not really sure why. It just really helps and the coaches, they're uplifting so it makes your confidence really higher."

"Unbelievable," Johnson said of her new confidence. "Jumping five foot, coming back from pretty much nothing, it's insane. … Everyone likes to win. I'm just a so competitive person. I like having this opportunity of learning something new and hoping I can get the high jump record. That's, like, a motivation to keep me going and get higher every time."

Balmer hopes the extra training and competition (the team will compete in Lexington, Ky., in the coming weeks) will make the Wolfpack more competitive.

"Track is really hot here, right now," he said. "I'm really loving it. We've got a group of kids here now that are really into track. Things are turned around. (Girls') coach (Mark) Boone has got his program going in the right direction, and we do, too."

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