Winters Mill sophomore Jim Kelly originally tried indoor track as a way to keep in shape for soccer. These days, however, the 15-year-old is contemplating which will be his No. 1 sport.
He recently placed second in the 800 meters and fourth in the 1,600 at the Monocacy Valley Athletic League's Piedmont Conference championships, and also was part of the Falcons' runner-up 3,200 relay team. Earlier, he played a key role in helping Winters Mill to the county title.
After struggling to find his place a year ago, he recently ran a career-best 4 minutes, 52 seconds in the mile.
Kelly, a right defensive sweeper in soccer, a sport he's played since he was a toddler, said that the extra stamina he's gained from running has made a huge difference in his performance on the soccer field If he continues his rapid development on the track, however, he may be faced with a difficult choice when it comes time for cross country tryouts next fall.
How did you get into track and field?
Well, I need something to do for training for soccer, which is my main sport. I needed training for endurance, so I decided that track would be an easy way to do that.
Have you found that track has had the desired effect, keeping you in better shape for soccer?
Yes, it has a lot. I definitely can play a lot longer. I can play the entire game and not feel as winded as I used to be. And I can sprint down offenders coming to the goal easier.
Although it's not your main sport, you've done extremely well this season in track. Have you surprised yourself at all?
Yes, I didn't think I'd be as good as I am now. I wasn't that great as a freshman, I didn't think.
You may have started track to simply keep in shape, but do you feel you've matured as a runner?
Definitely. I feel a lot more like a track runner than when I first started. We've talked about how you kick in the beginning of a race, then you slow down and just stride, then you just go all out.
The team, as a whole, has improved quite a bit from last year, when Winters Mill finished next to last in the county. What's the biggest difference from a year ago?
Last year we were a much younger team. We had very few seniors. This year, we have much older kids, and next year we'll probably be even better. We'll only lose a couple seniors.
Do you ever foresee track overtaking soccer as your No. 1 sport?
I've actually been thinking about doing cross country [instead of soccer in the fall]. I'm not exactly sure which I'm going to do next year.
Do you think that a lot of other soccer players could benefit from participating in track?
Yes I do. I've tried to convince many of my soccer teammates to try track just for endurance. I'm trying to bring a lot of the freshmen into track, just so we have a better team next year.
Do they resist?
Yes. Everyone is like "Track is boring, track is stupid" and "It's just running -- who'd want to do that?" So it's hard getting kids in.
I'm sure some of them also are intimidated by the amount of training required in track. How much running do you typically do in practice?
Well, in today's practice we had to do a five-mile run. It varies. Sometimes we might only do three miles, but sprinting instead of jogging. We do a variety of training workouts.