Charles Hays track and field coach Dighton Haynes trudged across the synthetic rubber surrounding the field beside the school last Thursday.
It was 3:30 p.m. and the kids were leaving the premises in droves, ready for their four-day weekend.
Including, it seemed, the track athletes.
Haynes knew he wouldn’t get many out on this day. Dark skies, rain and the day before a long weekend isn’t a conducive environment to large numbers for a practice.
It’s alright though, he’ll get a solid week of training out of the young and able this week in preparation for the their first meet in Terrace this weekend.
“We get somewhere around 15 [kids] per practice,” said Haynes, who kept a watchful eye on the doors.
To their credit, two dedicated students showed up, but were released. Two isn’t a grand enough number for the activities planned on this day.
“We usually do group stretching, then we have a group activity,” said the coach, who has recently moved to Prince Rupert from the Terrace area after retiring.
Ultimate frisbee is one such popular distraction, along with throwing around a football.
“Today was going to be shot put and middle distance running, but with the rain, the shot put people are looking [at the track] and seeing a huge puddle and the middle distance people are looking at cold muscles,” said Haynes.
To the Charles Hays Track and Field Team, each day brings something different. Only a singular event is practiced to keep the mind and body focused. Then, the next day brings something else.
“Because there’s so many different special events available to work on, I usually work on one [per day],” said the coach.
Not everyone makes it out to each of the four meets per week, either.
“I never really know how many I have because you’ve got many of these athletes [who play different sports] … they cross train, so I don’t need to see them every practice and as long as they’re getting a workout three times a week and I get to see them once then it works out pretty good,” said Haynes.
Long jump, high jump, shot put, distance running and pole vaulting all occupy the usual veins in the sport, and each need practice to be refined, like anything in competition. Haynes has seen a markedly noticeable improvement from his kids, of which he has 35 total who have signed up so far.
And the difference between track and team sports is that you can quantify your progress.
Sure, hockey and basketball have stats, but there are so many different forces and factors working for and against those stats that you can get lost in figuring out their meaning.
With track and field, you get pure, unadulterated results. Measurable with a clock or yardstick, the students can see with their own eyes the improvements they’re making, and that, Haynes says, is one attraction to the age-old sport.
“It’s all about beating your personal best,” he explains.
“They can see their growth … and they can really feel pride. It doesn’t matter the place [they finish].”
Something a little organic emerges when the teams hit the field for the meets.
“One of the successes I’ve had coaching track is how the team comes together as a team with a bunch of individual events. That one doesn’t fit the logic, but it happens year after year. The Terrace athletes had just as much fun cheering [an athlete] from Hazelton as they did cheering each other on, so that’s not even a teammate but it’s someone from the zone.”