Marathon High School track athletes Jonathon Pitchford, left, Takara McKnight, Joel Zalia, Keygan Jeffries and Aydan Child compete at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida this past weekend. Owen Pitchford, far right, also traveled as an stand-in runner, but did not compete.
They did the unexpected.” -Teresa Konrath, MHS athletic director
Marathon High Varsity Track
Florida State Track 1A Finals
Takara McKnight 200m 16th overall
Joel Zaila 1600m 15th overall
Joel Zaila 3200m 11th overall
Aydan Child 3200m 14th overall
Keygan Jeffries 400m 9th overall
Keygan Jeffries 800m 9th overall
Aydan Child, Keygan Jeffries, Joel Zalia and Jonathan Pitchford 4 x 800m 9th overall
MHS ready for second year of sport
“It was kind of unexpected,” he said, laughing.
That’s Marathon High School’s track and field coach James Murphy, talking about the team’s first season.
This is the first year that the high school has fielded a team. Without a track, the kids practiced at the city park, or the school’s baseball field when it wasn’t in use. Not only were Murphy and co-coach Paul Davis floored by the kids’ interest in the sport (almost three dozen turned out), they were positively astounded to win the 1A district competition and send six kids to the state competition on May 6 in Bradenton.
Of their times, the lowest rank was 16th overall. And Keygan Jeffries earned two ninth-place finishes, as did the boys’ 4×800 relay team that consisted of Jeffries, Aydan Child, Joel Zaila and Jonathan Pitchford.
Murphy said the intention was to start small, and get a feel for the sport and events. Initially, organizers envisioned take a minivan or two to the meets. That quickly turned into a bus.
“The kids were so into it. We competed in every event except pole vault,” Murphy said, adding that a couple of kids expressed interest in trying it but he put them off until a time when they could actually practice first.
The track team is another addition to MHS’ growing field of “individual” sports — where a student athlete’s success isn’t measured by the whole team’s performance. In 2016-17, Marathon High School added a boys’ weightlifting team to complement the girls’ team that had been practicing and competing for a year. Athletic Director Teresa Konrath said it made a big difference, especially for kids who are new to high school sports.
“It gives kids who are not involved in team sports an opportunity to be involved,” she said. “Beyond that, what I’ve seen is that not only do their athletics improve, so do their academics. Their self-esteem improves and kids become vibrant all of the sudden. It’s an amazing thing.”
It also offers Marathon High School athletes an opportunity for cross-training for other sports. Murphy said there is good momentum from the weightlifting and track seasons in the spring to football and cross-country seasons in the fall.
Murphy said the two-day meet in Bradenton was an eye-opener. Hundreds of students around the state participated.
“There were seven national records made at that meet. Seeing what was out there got us thinking about what we are striving towards. Coach Davis and I came away with a million new ideas,” he said. “I can’t imagine what some of these kids are going to do if we are practicing five days a week when season opens next year.”
Like the high school swim team with no pool, the track team will practice without a track. However, a few months ago, the Monroe County School Board ordered architectural drafts of improvements to the Marathon High School athletic fields. The draft isn’t complete, but school officials requested that a new track be included in the plans.