Though she be but little, she is fierce.
William Shakespeare’s line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream has applied to the Hillsboro girls track team often over the last few years, but in terms of numbers only, not talent. The team has set school records, won conference events and has advanced to the state finals, despite having a roster you could count without taking off your shoes.
Hillsboro Girls Track Coach Son Clayton believes that the small roster, which is slightly larger this year with ten athletes, has been an asset at times during practice.
“The nice thing about having a smaller track team at the high school level is I’m able to work with each girl/group of girls daily on their particular events,” Clayton said. “Daily practices consist of hard workouts for the first part of practice. I always have a special workout plan for the distance runners and a different workout for my sprinters. The second half of practice, the girls go to their special events such as hurdles or field events after we work on our relay exchanges. Everyday I would spend time with them individually. For example, on Monday I would work with girls who hurdle, on Tuesday with with my high jumpers, on Wednesday with my throwers and so on through the week.”
That specialized attention has been missing this year though as the season has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With schools out until at least April 30, Clayton is concerned that the whole season could be cancelled, and if not, the layoff could take a toll on his team.
“The hardest part is not being able to run practices and interact and work with the girls one-on-one. I’m afraid they will lose a lot of their conditioning since the girls have been practicing since the first of February,” Clayton said.
While he can’t run practices like usual, Clayton did send a workout schedule home with the team during the first week school was closed. The schedule consists of daily workouts for the runners and drills for the throwers, jumpers and hurdlers.
“I remind them weekly to stick to the workout, to stay positive and to stay safe,” Clayton said. “I’m afraid it’s going to be a short season for the three seniors, or possibly no season at all.”
Hillsboro’s three seniors this year are Chloe Smail, Alexis Lessman and Allie Jackson. Both Smail and Lessman ran track in junior high and will run sprints and distance respectively, with Smail also competing her freshman year, while Jackson is a first year thrower.
The team’s three returning members are juniors Ashlynn Papin and Emma Miller and sophomore Kaci Papin. The Papin sisters will compete in the sprints, while Miller returns to the throws, where she will compete in discus and shot. The Papins are also two of the top high jumpers in the state, both making it to Charleston last year.
Junior Jordan Jacobs returns to track after running three years in junior high and qualifying for state in the hurdles as an eighth grader. Rounding out the roster are freshmen Avery Smith, Paitynn Wilson and Meagan White, who also ran in junior high. Smith and White will join Lessman to make up Son’s first distance runners in seven years, while Wilson joins the Papins, Smail and Jacobs in the sprints.
Those five will make up Hillsboro’s 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams this season, two of the Toppers’ strongest events in recent years.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a 4x100 and 4x200 this season since I lost two amazing seniors last year, Kyra Huber and Kylie Meier,” Clayton said. “Those are some very huge shoes to fill. This year’s team will have plenty of depth, so I’ll be able to fill most of the events.”
That’s a change for the Hillsboro girls track team. Hopefully that depth gets a chance to show what they can do this year.