The Hayden Middle School track and field team has burgeoned into the largest athletic squad at the school.
Coach Sally Brach-Morton and a few dedicated assistants helped lead 63 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to a successful 2003 season filled with highlights and school records.
Back in the early 1980s, Hayden was lucky to have 16 athletes on the team.
"Enrollment has gone up considerably since then," she said. "And the kids are real good kids. They are interested in track and all sports."
Brach-Morton encourages young athletes to attempt different events and get a feel for what they enjoy and might be strong in. Several middle school students may already have found their niche in certain events.
Bryan Richards, an eighth-grader, set a new school record in the triple jump, leaping 35 feet, 1 inch. He is coached by his older brother, Rod Richards, and father, Greg Richards. Rod holds the high school record in the triple jump.
"He wants Bryan to beat him and do well and that's the nice thing," Brach-Morton said. "They have good camaraderie."
Tucker Overstreet, also an eighth-grader, set new school records in the 100 and 200 meters, running 12.67 seconds in the 100 and a 25.84 in the 200, beating the old record held by Jesse Drennan.
Eighth-grader Meghann Walker set a school record in the long jump, going 13-10 and broke Jaclyn Etzler's 100 meters record with a 13.45.
Seventh-grader Adam LeFevre ran a 16.74 in the 100-meter hurdles and a 34.8 in the 200-meter hurdles, breaking both records.
The boys 400-meter relay team of Overstreet, Richards, Brandon Ford and Jeff Bray set a new school mark of 51.6, while the 800-meter relay team of Overstreet, Richards, Ford and Dave Gullett ran 1:48.56 to set another record.
Barbara Manzanares worked with the sprinters and relays as an assistant.
Emily Whiteman, throwing a high-school regulation shot of 8 pounds, 12 ounces, tossed an impressive 29-3 1/2. She ended up breaking the school mark in the discus, throwing 81 feet.
High school coaches Kevin Kleckler and Leif Jacobsen assisted with the middle school throwers.
Many athletes didn't contribute to new school records but all were a valuable part of the team, Brach-Morton said.
Amber Suits, an eighth-grader, emerged as a talented distance runner in a school known most recently for its excellent sprinters.
Suits is an ever-improving 800-meter and 1,600-meter runner. The mile is the longest event at the middle school level.
"We had some sixth- and seventh-graders doing well in distance that really like to run the mile," Brach-Morton said. "When kids come up and ask to run the mile, that's pretty funny."
Brian Incitti served as the distance coach for the Tigers.
"We had good performances from all the kids," Brach-Morton said. "The little sixth-graders were just awesome. The seventh-graders were strong. Put the two together and we should be a strong team next year."
The eighth-graders, school records in tote, move on to the high school level. Brach-Morton said many of her eighth-graders should be able to help the high school team immediately.
"I think the eighth-graders were definitely looking at what the high school team was doing," Brach-Morton said. "We took freshmen to state last year and this year. It works both ways: A strong middle school program helps the high school, but a strong high school program helps the middle school."
--To contact Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org