ELLSWORTH — When the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association announced the suspension of the spring sports season, the Ellsworth track and field team was one week into its season. That week was spring break.
The track and field team got in a few conditioning practices but coaches weren’t really able to do much hands-on. Marcia Jahnke, the head girls’ track and field coach immediately took to the app GroupMe to keep in contact with her team. How the team would use it quickly became apparent.
“We sent out a whole bunch of plyometric interval trainings and strength and conditioning ideas. And then we put it out to them to challenge each other,” Jahnke said. “Each day, a lot of junior and senior groups ended up doing a workout, record it and then challenge teammates to do the same workout. It’s totally peer directed.”
Jahnke said that this year’s team was expected to be very young — many of the student athletes were trying out track and field for the first time and didn’t have a defined role yet. She said that the senior leadership has been easy to identify though.
April Gifford, a senior shot put and disc thrower, has not only taken the initiative to improve her own skills but those of others.
“I’ve spent a lot of time running and trying to stay in shape since I don’t have the equipment to really strengthen at home,” Gifford said. “I go to the high school track and throw. One of my friends has a disc and we’ll go there — staying socially distant — and we’ll throw.”
On the track, Jahnke said she is fortunate to have Stella Anderson’s leadership.
“A lot of kids come out for track and they use us as a training opportunity for other sports, but this is her sport. This is the sport she chose to define herself by,” Jahnke said.
Anderson, who had been preparing for the season with a trainer, has been using an agility ladder and cones at her house. She also has found that keeping a routine each day improves her training regimen.
Anderson’s mindset is a testament to the achievements she’s made in past years. She qualified for state last year as part of the 4x100-meter relay with fellow senior Marina Boley. She also placed first at regionals in the high jump.
“I never would have thought that I’d get first in the conference,” Anderson said. “And making it to state with my relay team. It was just really fun and it was an amazing experience.”
On the boys’ side, senior Ivan Mendez was hoping for another crack at taking first at regionals in the 4x800-meter relay and to help groom a large group of new track and field athletes.
Much like Anderson and Gifford, he touts his leadership qualities as something he can still utilize this spring.
“I have a leadership role where I show by example,” he said. “There’s never a day where I’m saying, ‘Oh, I’ll take this day off.’ I’m always trying to make myself better.”
Jahnke said that in part because of the seniors’ leadership, they have made the most of a lost spring season and helped the team keep in contact with each other. Gifford, Mendez and Anderson all agreed the relationships that have been built through each spring season is a major highlight of their varsity careers.
“The track team in Ellsworth is smaller than the usual teams in our conference and I just feel like the track team is like my family when it’s the season,” Anderson said.