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With a limited number of students available to run track, Bethlehem coach Chris Cassady’s team must make the most of its opportunities to qualify for the state meet.
The nucleus is in place for the Eagles to make a second straight appearance in the 4x400 relay.
“We’re very strong in that event,” Cassady said.
Seniors Ian Allen and William Kelley and junior Wyatt Hagan are joined by first-year runner sophomore John Collins in the 4x400.
Kelley and Allen have been able to score in the 400 but Cassady thinks they will have to improve on their times.
“Usually the winners are around 49 or 50 seconds,” he said.
Kelley has also won the 100 at the season-opening Nelson County meet.
But it’s the addition of coach Jim O’Hare that has Cassady excited and hopeful that Bethlehem will have a pole-vaulter make it to the state competition.
“This is the first time that we’ve had anyone compete in that event and it’s all about Coach O’Hare,” Cassady said. “He is doing such a great job. We now have three guys who are working with him.”
Allen is the best of the lot as he placed second in his first meet in the event and Cassady believes he can improve his height enough to make it to the next step.
Allen was effusive in his praise of O’Hare.
“Coach is just fantastic,” Allen said. “When I started out, I knew nothing about how to pole vault. Within two weeks, he had me to a point that I am able to compete with other guys who have been doing it for years.”
Allen said O’Hare has coached several state pole vault champions, and that has made a big impression on him.
“Plus, when I want to practice, he’s there. If you want to learn, Coach O’Hare is there ready to teach you,” Allen added.
The Eagles have also been able to score points in their early meets in the discus and shot put. Sophomore William Brown, a top lineman for the Bethlehem football team, handles the shot put while junior Adam Carrithers and Zack Ritchie throw the discus. The latter placed fifth in a recent meet.
“It’s not just unusual for two from the same team to place in the discus, but it’s very unique,” Cassady said.
It’s a different story on the girls’ side, as Cassady only has four on his team.
“With soccer and volleyball club teams playing year-round, it affects our numbers,” he said. “And I understand that every girl who runs cross country does not run track because it is more dash-oriented rather than distance.”
Two girls do return from the 4x100 relay team that qualified for the state.
Junior Mary Wimsett was one of those competitors, and her coach says that the team will need to improve on its time for her to make it back to state.
Meanwhile, junior Morgan Yates, the other returnee, is a candidate to makeit to the conference championship in the 100 and perhaps the 800-meter run.
“I enjoy those races because it’s all on you,” Yates said. “There’s a sense of accomplishment and it’s a reward for the hard work and training when you do well in the individual races.”
But she also enjoys the teamwork of a relay.
“That’s what I like about track,” she said. “You work to do well for yourself but when you’re in a relay, you’re also cheering for your teammate and encouraging them as they pass the baton.”