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High School sports

Pumping iron is helping local track athletes show their mettle

The Hereford girls distance runners went through a tough workout Monday. They did four consecutive 1,000-meter runs on the track, 21/2 miles overall, taxing on any day. But the Bulls weren't done: The weight room awaited.

The athletes then did six sets of exercises, three to work on the upper body and three more to help the lower half. Overall, they spent about 30 to 40 minutes doing that after the running, but it's something the Bulls endure a few times weekly.

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Hereford is one of several track and field programs throughout the metro area that now make weight training a part of their regular workout regimen. If weight training can't be part of a team's regular workout schedule, coaches often encourage athletes to do it on their own. Weight training has been around for a while but seems to be slowly expanding into the world of high school track and field in the area.

Hereford senior Sarah Coffey knew little about weight training when she started running at the school as a freshman. She did not understand why runners were lifting weights, but doing it has made her stronger and, she thinks, a better runner in cross country and track.

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"I was a little surprised at first," Coffey said. "I didn't have much experience with [weight training] and really didn't see the connection. Once I started lifting, I could feel the strength [coming] in the running workouts."

Ed Gorman, men's national chair for USA Track and Field, said weight training has gained acceptance in the sport over the past two decades or so.

"What is power? Power is strength plus speed. You need a combination of that," Gorman said. "It's filtered down [over time]. You had your pro guys doing it. You had your collegiate guys doing it. Now you have the high school kids doing it."

Hereford coach Brad Duvall is a big proponent of weight training, feeling stronger athletes are better athletes. The school has a good weight facility that the track team routinely uses.

The Bulls have been one of the top cross country and track programs in Class 2A and 3A over the past several years. Duvall said the weight work is a reason for that success, which includes a Class 2A state indoor title last month.

"My kids gain a lot of things" from it, Duvall said. "Injury prevention for distance runners, cross-training, explosive training for jumpers and throwers. It makes our kids a lot tougher and helps as a recruiting tool for football players and kids who play other sports and want to get into the weight room."

Dulaney coach Chad Boyle has long believed in the benefits of weight training. He said the Lions have used some type of strength training since he began coaching there 18 years ago.

Boyle also did plenty of it himself while competing at UMBC and has worked with others in the community. The Lions boys won the Class 4A state title in cross country last fall and their program, like Hereford's, is continually one of the area's more competitive.

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"Our strength training is wide ranging, [and] we do everything from circuit training using body-weight exercises to various levels of plyometrics [exercises that use explosive movements such as jumps] to Olympic lifts such as power cleans," Boyle said. "Our objectives as a coaching staff in utilizing strength training are diverse. For an athlete in our event such as the throws or the 100-meter dash, we want to enhance their skills by improving their power. However, for an endurance athlete, we hope to improve their general strength in order to help them sustain hard efforts in the tough moments of their races."

Century coach Tony Griner uses weight and strength training to help his team peak in the latter parts of the season, in time for the county, region and state meets.

Griner said his athletes do weight training, yoga and core exercises twice a week throughout the season. He feels this extra effort adds to the skills his team already brings to competition.

"The seasonal focus is strength, maintenance, then recovery — all of which can be done in a weight room and/or yoga mat," Griner said. "Not every champion is naturally gifted. Some are built via a dedicated effort in the weight room as well as the yoga mat."

Other teams aren't able to do as much weight training yet, even though they might like to. South River coach Hugh Harris said his team has limited practice time and facility space, which prevents him from making weight training a major part of workouts, but he's a big fan.

The Seahawks have been able to spend part of their practices doing core workouts. But Harris also encourages the kids on his team to take weight training in gym class because it helps them in many ways.

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"I believe … it reduces injuries, makes them stronger, and [they won't get] hurt as much," Harris said.

Longtime C. Milton Wright coach Donnie Mickey also likes weight and strength training. He said track and field isn't quite as big yet in Harford County, but he feels the benefits of weight training are easy to see, and he hopes more of it comes to the area soon.

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"I think every coach is looking at as many ways as possible to help the kids improve," Mickey said. "In the explosion-type events, creating a more powerful athlete through strength training will only serve to help that athlete improve."

This week's previews

Get ready for spring with our sport-by-sport high school outlooks, which include stories, athletes to watch, polls and key numbers.

Today: Track and field

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Saturday: Softball

Sunday: Boys lacrosse

Online: Girls lacrosse, baseball


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