NORTH CANTON To find a team dealing with the same challenges it faces, the Hoover boys track squad need not look very far - literally.
A glance across the track at any practice will do just fine, as the Hoover girls track team is in much the same situation. Both squads have large numbers of underclassmen and not as many seniors, making for an inexperienced roster finding its way as the season unfolds.
"Just like the girls are, we’re a young team. We have 11 seniors, a few more than them, but we’re in a similar spot," head coach Nick Stroemple said. "One thing that comes with a younger team is they have to learn how to manage the season because it’s longer than they were used to in middle school."
Stroemple, in his first season as the program’s head coach, shares at least one key thing in common with his runners. Although he’s been a coach for several years, he’s new to leading the varsity track team and for his athletes who are new to varsity competition, that commonality is something to be shared.
For a young team, the first few weeks of a season can be both telling and a make-or-break time. If an inexperienced squad stumbles out of the gate and doesn’t perform well, its confidence can take a hit from which it is difficult to recover.
Conversely, early success can bolster that confidence and pave the way for more success as young athletes begin to realize that they can compete at the varsity level. With appearances at the Lexington Invitational and in dual meets with Lake and Perry, Hoover has skewed more toward the latter.
After losing a close decision against Lake, the Vikings were able to respond with a win against Perry to garner their first Federal League triumph of the year.
Junior Jay Lutton is one of the athletes with a solid amount of experience to his credit and as the team’s leader in the 3,200 meters, he’s cashing in on what his coach described as a productive winter of work.
"Jay is currently second in county in the two-mile. He put in a lot of good work over the winter and put himself in a good position this spring," Stroemple said.
Alongside Lutton, Will Reisinger, Brock Fichter and Koby Householder have all shown promise for a successful season and as the year wears on, one of the goals for the program is to develop depth and bring the team’s underclassmen along for a strong finish.
As with most young teams, there have been bumps in the road and miscues rooted in inexperience, but with the girls team going through many of the same experiences when it comes to a roster deep in freshmen and sophomores, the boys team can appreciate the fact that it isn’t alone in the challenges it faces.
"Distance is one of our strong suits. Our sprints are improving and we do have some good field event competitors, so we feel good about what we can do," Stroemple said.
Overall, the roster consists of about 65 athletes and that depth alone is a valuable resource for the Vikings. Not having to over-tax individual athletes by asking them to do too much within meets is one of the benefits of a larger roster, as is the internal competition when it comes to athletes vying for playing time.
With the district meet once again on its home track, Hoover can also prepare for the postseason knowing that it will start any potential trip to the state meet on its own surface. For a team still working to gain its footing on the varsity level, that’s a nice advantage to have and one the Vikings will try to use in their favor as they grow.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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