Training starts now for local high school athletes.
By John O'Neill
Picking up a few hours at an easygoing job or perhaps scheduling a family vacation caps the list of commitments for many local high school students during their summer vacation.
Some students, however, are trading in their relaxing afternoons and mornings of sleeping in to grind on the trails, sweat in the weight room and refine technique on the court.
Student-athletes training for fall sports sacrifice much downtime this summer to ensure their peak performance when official practices and competitions begin in August. SneakPEAK caught up with coaches, athletes and alumni from the Battle Mountain High School sporting scene to find out how athletes are prepping for success on the fields, courts and trails this summer.
More than 20 Battle Mountain High School runners were gathered on the curb outside of Edwards Elementary. Most sat in the shade of the few aspen trees that separated the blacktop parking lot with the sunbaked field. On an 85-degree day the trees offered the only respite from a beating sun they would face on their longer run of the week.
On this day the training is simple: a longer run between 45 minutes for the first-time team members and 70 minutes for the more seasoned runners.
Each day the training is a little different, says coach Rob Parish, but the overarching goal for the summer is to attain some volume of miles. Speed will come later.
“We’re working almost completely on endurance at this point,” Parish says. “The miles they put in now will help a ton when the season comes around.”
The idea is that, by getting a lot of time on the feet, runners’ bodies adapt and become more comfortable with the pounding their bodies incur during the season. It aids in injury prevention, slims the runners down into acceptable form, and it builds endurance.
“All of the girls have been working so hard this summer,” says Mandy Ortiz a senior standout for the team. “We’ve all been really positive about training and making sure everyone is working hard.”
The Husky girls cross country team hold themselves to high standards after their fourth-place finish at the state championships last year. Ortiz and Parish know that their summer efforts will go a long way in getting them to their goals.
“They were fourth last year and we’re bringing back all of the key pieces this year,” Parish said. “They are extremely motivated, experienced and athletic.”
Ortiz, the top runner last year, says the girls would like to contend for the state title this season. She and the other runners know that every afternoon or morning that they can get up and get to work will get them a little closer to a title.
Last year’s season resuscitated a previously stagnant and failing football program at Battle Mountain. They secured a spot in the playoffs for the first time in years and saw success both at home and away. This year, though, it is time for the younger athletes to step up as a new group of players have taken the helm from last year’s senior-led team.
The summer’s training agenda is to build back what was lost and return to the field in top form. The Husky athletes will focus on three aspects of training this summer: strength, speed and conditioning.
Twice a week, Coach Jim Swanson opens the BMHS weight room to run players through a strength regimen.
“Now is the important time to get ahead,” Swanson says. “The weight training the athletes do now is important for the durability issues they’ll face during the season. They can get big now, and that will help them deal with collisions and avoid injury during the season.”
Swanson stresses strength training only in proper ways – lifting lighter weights and working at a 75 percent effort.
In the mornings, slapping off their alarm clocks and shaking loose stiff muscles, the players find their way to the high school at 7 a.m. for a two-hour speed camp that began July 9 and will run through Aug. 3.
“Speed and agility will increase flexibility and explosiveness,” Swanson says. “It will get you in shape and fit long before the season starts.”
Through weights and speed the student-athlete football players should attain a state of conditioning that will give them an advantage on opponents once the season starts.
“It will be interesting to see how the kids come around to not having the seniors from last year,” Swanson said. “I think they’ll do alright. It will take a lot of work, but that’s all it takes – hard work.”
Head coach Dave Cope wasn’t on the ground in Colorado for more than a day from a coaching conference in Los Angeles before he was digging through the BMHS equipment closet for soccer balls, practice jerseys and cones: the necessary elements to kick start summer practices. The team recently returned from a training camp held at the University of Denver, which consisted of three practices a day for a long weekend with athletes working with a variety of coaches and collegiate players.
Will Nolan, an upcoming senior, was unable to attend the camp thanks to a rolled ankle. However, he says that the players have been loyal to summer practice as to ensure a great season.
“We have been practicing every Monday and Wednesday as a group with organized games against other (local) teams and doing our own training on the other days,” Nolan says.
On Mondays the Husky boys play in an eight-versus-eight rec league. On Wednesdays they play against Pepi’s, an older men’s league. Nolan and the other players have been practicing on their own at fields around the valley, shooting balls and running drills prescribed to them by Cope and other BMHS coaches.
Last year the Huskies won their league and went as far into the state playoffs as any previous BMHS team. A core group of seniors have returned who hope to make their last season their best season.
“We got a big motivational speech at the end of our season last year,” Nolan says. “A lot of the guys have been playing together with these same coaches for four years. This season has a lot of potential. We’re motivated to have a great senior year.”
The sun doesn’t shine in the BMHS gym, and the girls’ volleyball team wouldn’t know it was summer or the school year if it weren’t for the summer practice schedule. Meeting Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. the Husky team uses their time in the summer to become physically and mentally prepped for the season.
For conditioning’s sake, they run 25 hills one day a week and spend other practice time on the court working on spikes, sets, digs and decision-making, says Molly Childers, a senior on the team.
When the Huskies fell to opponents last year it was typically by three or four points. This summer, under the direction of Coach Jason Fitzgerald, the girls are in the gym to reverse that margin.
Piper McMillian, a Husky volleyball alumnus who played with the 2007 State Champions team, knows the importance of summer training.
“We always did morning training, weights, running and nights of open gym,” says McMillian, a 2010 graduate. “Everything was optional, but everything was a priority.”
The legendary 2007 team that sent multiple girls to All-American rosters and college programs. The players this year hope to set the program back on that track.
“We are back, and we are stronger,” says Childers. “We are going to take what this training has given us and put it to work.”