AYER – Oftentimes in track, the elite athletes get all of the attention, but when it comes to league championships, although the top end runners’ contributions are certainly appreciated, success almost always comes from the depth of the teams budding stars and rising contributors.
The Ayer Shirley Regional girls’ indoor track and field team is not short on this quality rising depth, as a championship season comes around, good fortune lies in the legs of the improving runners.
“(The budding stars) are going to keep on improving, keep getting better, they are our future,” Ayer Shirley Regional girls’ track and field head coach Mike Seguin said. “And two, they are the ones we use to fill all the gaps that we have in track and field. Like, we need you for a relay, you haven’t tried this before, try this; the league might be low in hurdlers, why don’t you get in there.”
“And we kind of move them around based on our team as well,” Seguin continued. “Seeing where we are deficient as a team and having them fill that role. We have so many of these girls that have moved around to find a spot on the team that they will help contribute to the growth of the team.”
A team first approach is helping to facilitate more depth for the Panthers, as events that are top heavy in talent, seem to have developing runners eager to try their hands in a new event to bolster star caliber depth in all the events.
“We don’t stress our talk about individuals,” Seguin said. “We stress the team, and this is why we’re here. We’re here to see how far we can make this team move forward. (When we approach an athlete about changing events) it’s about how they can help the team, but a lot of time it’s about them coming to us asking what can they do. We have a pretty good team philosophy first, and as coaches we’re trying to make every individual the best they can be, because obviously it helps the team.”
Lillian Abelson is a versatile athlete working in the shot put, 600-meter run, 300m dash, and showed a willingness to jump into the hurdlers when the team had a need.
“(Abelson) is one that we’re going to be able to stick her into relays,” Seguin said. “And fill in anywhere in the mid-distance, like 4-by-4, sprint medley, and events like that, where we’re spreading those top girls out everywhere and she is a good fit to fill in.”
Middle school runner Clara Connors is a mile and 1,000m specialist. Connors has shown astounding improvement, getting better by 10 seconds each meet this season in the mile. She started with a 7:23, and now she’s down to a 7:01.
The 1,000m is another event that Connors has shown that drastic improvement, starting with a 4:30, dropping 5 seconds off each meet, and is down to a 4:17.
“Each meet that (Connors) goes she gets faster, and faster, and faster,” Seguin said. “If this progression continues she will be our 4-by-8 girl.”
Elizabeth Cruz is the ultimate versatile weapon, where she might not hold the top spot in any event on the team, however in almost every event that she does, she’s the second top athlete. Cruz is a vital part of the 4x400m relay which should be one of the top teams in the district, she’s the second best high jumper on the team, and second best 300m dash runner.
“Individually Cruz might not be getting the press that she deserves,” Seguin said. “But without her we don’t have a 4-by-4 team that would be competitive. (At a league meet) she would place in the high jump, 300, and 4-by-4, but it’s a question of what we are going to do with her.”
Devin Delyani is a senior captain providing a spark in the hurdles, high jump, and 4x200m relay. Like Cruz, Delyani has the potential to score in all three events.
“There’s a reason why she’s one of the captains,” Seguin said. “She works hard, and if we ask her to do anything she would step up and do it for the team. Without her we don’t have the hurdle relay team, or one of the top kids in the 4-by-2.”
Marissa Grace runs the 1,000m and each meet she continues to make strides improving her time. Grace started the season at 3:59 and is now at 3:43.
“It’s something to be said that each time you go out, and compete, you get faster, and faster, and faster,” Seguin said. “It means that you’re working well at practice, and putting the work in.”
Jaliyah Mayes is a middle schooler with a few years in the program, and continues to get faster and better. The team currently relies on her as a sprinter, and has the confidence that she will shine. In addition to the the sprints, 55m, 300m, 4x200m relay, she’s also dabbled in a little long jumping.
“Mayes’ 300 is a 48.95, and she started off at a 51,” Seguin said. “We know that we’re going to get the speed out of her in the 4x200.”
Ada Perwak is featured in the 4x200, high jump, 1,000m, 600m, and 55m hurdles. Perwak is another Swiss Army Knife like athlete that has the potential to go almost anywhere and make her impact felt.
Gabrielle Sweeney is another one of the team’s captains, and is another athlete filling many roles. In the shot put she’s shown continuous improvement, and will be helping the team in depth in the league meet.