Lakewood Track is reloaded for another season

By Akaash Saini

For the Globe/Times

LAKEWOOD — Whenever most athletic programs get on a slump, they have to rebuild the team to get back on the successful path of winning. This may take one to many years, depending on personnel.

For Lakewood High School’s track and field team, coach Jeff Sowards has another approach to the problem.

“Our program never rebuilds, it keeps reloading.” Sowards stated.

Always a heavyweight contender in the 2A state track tourney, the Cougars hope to add in quantity what they lost in quality last season. Lakewood has 125 students signed up this season for track and field. Compare that to 4A schools like Arlington or Marysville-Pilchuck with fewer than 115 athletes. The numbers may be similar, but in terms of overall size between these schools, Lakewood is clearly putting together a large program.

Upperclassmen and regulars on the track team understand why students want to join the team.

“Everyone knows track and cross country are the most successful sports at our school,” said junior distance runner Taylor Guske.

“They want to be a part of the legacy that has been placed here by coaches and past students who have achieved in this program,” added junior Chad Skiles, another distance runner.

Even with its large numbers this team is ready to rumble. The boys team looks amazing on paper.

"If you take the athletes returning from last year, throughout the whole state as a meet, we would end up with a score of 48 points which would put us in the top four in the state," Sowards said.

The girls’ team graduated its three state competitors last year, but the team is a lot larger than last year, and the Lakewood coaches can see their hard work and commitment. Sowards said he believes that their hard work will result in improvement from their fourth-place conference finish last year and the potential to finish in the league's top two this spring.

Returning state athletes include sprinter Devon Smith, jumper Nathan Hesselman, throwers Payden Butler and Cameron Hess, pole vaulter Spencer Hulslander and Guske, who competed in the 3,200.

Skiles believes the key to the team's success comes from above.

“The coaches have affected our team enormously. They’re always there for us. Whether it’s for running, school, college prep, life in general, anything," he said. "We wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are without our coaches.”

Sowards added, “The coaches focus on the person first, then the athlete after that. Some kids like that they’re important (for more than whether) they can run fast or throw far, they like us to think they’re humans. There’s a place for everybody. We really do concentrate on the individual.”

With this unusually large team, there truly is a place for everybody.

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