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Murray Journal

Cottonwood’s Fearless Track and Field Team

May 05, 2016 02:05PM ● By Sarah Almond

By Sarah Almond | [email protected] 

Murray - With just a fraction of its season completed, the Cottonwood High School track and field team has found success in individual improvements and positive team unity.

 “I have been really happy about this season,” head coach Jason Baker said. “They are working harder and are definitely much more bonded as a team this year.” 

Cottonwood runners agreed. 

“We are really energetic this year, and we like to have fun,” junior Daniel De La Cruz said. “And I think that’s because the coaches really encourage us to be together and do stuff together, so we all get along. And everything seems to be way more organized this year.” 

Much of the team’s organization and improvement can be attributed to Baker’s dedication in creating a lasting, reputable program at CHS. When he took over the head coaching position last year, the track and field program was underdeveloped and in need of refinement and direction. 

“There’s definitely still room for improvement, but all in all, the program is much better than it was last year,” Baker said. “We have almost twice as many people as we did last year, and they are sticking through it and following through with requirements as far as the culture and how to run practice and everything.”

Unlike some schools, Baker doesn’t hold tryouts at the beginning of the season. Instead, he asks his runners to be dedicated to the team, to show up for practice and to work hard. If they can meet those three expectations, he or she can be a member of the Colts’ track and field family. 

“Where the program is at right now, cutting kids from the team isn’t going to be as effective as giving them time to develop and build up,” Baker said. 

With upwards of 45 students on the team this season, Baker is happy with the turnout but hopes Cottonwood will one day have a team of 80 or more. 

“Cottonwood is a tough place to crack just because we don’t have that running culture here yet,” Baker said. “When I came in last year the [distance] guys were just not prepared.” 

Along with helping his distance runners knock at least two minutes off their time, Baker says that a majority of individuals have also dropped time since the start of the season. 

“I just really like running,” De La Cruz said. “It makes me feel good. And I’ve already shaved eight seconds off my 300-meter time, so that’s been a highlight.” 

Baker pushes his runners hard and holds them to high expectations, but he says it’s all part of building a stable running culture. He thinks being consistently challenged has been perhaps the biggest obstacles for the team’s seasoned runners. 

“I run my guys hard. I’m not going to let them go easy,” Baker said. “And I think that’s been a big culture shock. But for me, I’d rather take a hard worker over a talented athlete because I can do more with them.” 

Fortunately, many of the runners have seen the results of being challenged and working hard. As a former cross country and distance track runner himself, Baker knows that getting his athletes to buy into the idea of working hard is only half the battle. 

“The hard work has been a challenging part, but building a culture is a time consuming process,” Baker said. “A lot of the kids see their improvements, but as a coach it means that you have to be helping them focus on that improvement.” 

To reflect their focus on hard work, Baker has deemed “Fearless” as this year’s theme. 

“Fearlessness is what I’m trying to drive with them,” Baker said. “Even though it’s a small program right now and even though they are not as experienced as other runners might be, that doesn’t mean they can’t be fearless in their abilities.” 

The Colts’ season comes to an end in mid-May, but the group is planning to send several runners to the state meet, May 20–21 at BYU.