CLEARMONT — Arvada-Clearmont High School and Junior High School’s track and field practice began promptly at 4:08 p.m. Wednesday as the Lady Panthers and lone Panther took to the schools’ recently built 200-meter track. After two warmup laps, senior Torrey Veach led the five other runners in dynamic stretches as first-year head coach Tim Rowe and assistant coach P.J. Rozema briefly discussed the plan for the afternoon.

In preparation for the team’s first meet of the season in Buffalo Thursday, the six-athlete group practiced their starts and sprinted close to 50 meters propelled by the ease of running on a home track, the energy from their first-year head coach and the eagerness to compete after the coronavirus forced the cancellation of last year’s season.

“Having to go out there and actually having to compete against someone is going to be really great,” senior Krista Malli said.

Before the 200-meter track’s construction, along with a discus cage, shot put circle and long jump pad, the Panther and Lady Panthers would have to travel more than 30 minutes each way to practice with Buffalo High School athletes. The track reduces the Arvada-Clearmont athletes’ commute, and Rowe expects interest in track and field to increase with the added convenience of the track while benefiting those in the community who can utilize it as well.

Malli pointed out the shorter distance compared to a standard 400-meter track poses unique challenges when practicing, as the straightaway stretches are shorter and training for hurdles means running two laps. Additionally, when running on the 200-meter track, the Arvada-Clearmont athletes have to work harder mentally to consider where they would be relatively on a 400-meter track.

Veach said certain benefits come from the shorter track when conditioning for the past several weeks, noting he feels that the athletes work harder on a 200-meter track compared to the 400-meter track that features gradual turns.

Both seniors helped their younger teammates when using starting blocks, serving as a welcome resource for Rowe. Malli said her teammates show eagerness to learn and improve, Veach describes them as “young and positive” and Rowe noticed the same positivity from all of the Arvada-Clearmont competitors.

The seventh- to 12th-grade math teacher finds his day job influences his coaching style.

“In math class, you need grit, and you need grit on the track,” Rowe said. “In any sport really, but especially at a track meet to make sure you finish through the finish line.”

Rowe ran track in junior high and high school and now prioritizes forming positive relationships with his athletes and encouraging the program’s participants to work as a team. Besides Malli and Veach offering their advice, Row works with Rozema to help the less experienced Lady Panthers find their strengths and decide which events they’d like to train to compete in.

Following last season’s cancellation due to the coronavirus, Malli said it feels “different but familiar” to be back on the track, and the Arvada-Clearmont athletes’ have adjusted to the physical challenges running, jumping and throwing present. And the excitement prior to the first meet of the season once again feels routine.

The weather prevented Arvada-Clearmont from competing last weekend, so the Panther and Lady Panthers first meet of the season will begin at 10 a.m. in Buffalo Thursday. The junior high school program will compete at Big Horn High School.

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