Shift in team culture lays groundwork for GHS track success

Peter J. Teagle - Posted on Apr 24, 2019 - 01:08 PM

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For the Gloucester High School track team and its head coach John Perrin, a shift in team culture and a bevy of underclassmen mean the Dukes have the tools to be successful for the near future—if they put in the work.

“We’ve had a good year so far,” said Perrin. “We had our first home meet here Wednesday of last week and the boys finished second and the girls finished fifth” out of 10 teams. While the Dukes have run well this year, it comes after an offseason shakeup.

“We sat back and evaluated the indoor season,” said Perrin. “We thought we needed to make some changes, so what we’ve done is we’ve created a new culture … we have kids out there that want to be out there, not just come out there to say they’re on the team or get a letter or whatever.”

A meeting between coaches and team veterans laid out the expectations for the new season. “We wanted kids who were serious about track,” Perrin concluded, and the Gloucester coaching staff has empowered their upperclassmen to lead a field of young runners into the future.

Perrin also credits his new staff with helping make these positive changes. “We’ve got five coaches who understand the sport, who love the sport, that’s been a big thing,” Perrin said. Assistant coaches Josh Nichols and Stan Hundley fill out the full-time staff and work with relays, sprints, as well as strength and conditioning.

However, for any team to be successful the players must buy in and have locker room leaders who hold them accountable. Perrin pointed to junior Ainsley Miller and senior Aaron Shipe as two runners who do their job on and off the track.

Miller competes in more than half a dozen events, but listed 4x4 relay and pole vault as her best. She began her track career in eighth grade at the behest of her mother.

“My mom made all of us run at least one season of track,” Miller recalled, “and after that one season I realized that I really like it so I came back.” In terms of this year, Miller feels she has taken a leap in her pole-vaulting ability and in overall speed. As a team, Miller was of the opinion that “we definitely need more state qualifiers, like we have a lot of athletes who have that potential but we have to get them there.

“We definitely try to push the younger ones, as well as the older ones, to be the best that they can be,” Miller added. “It bothers me when people don’t try their hardest in practice but then they try in meets, so I’ll get behind them and chase them until they run the way I know they can.”

She said, “If everyone tries their hardest and we get as far as we can that’s all you can ask.