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News brief: Junior earns Mount Madonna School’s first track and field medal

Published on Morgan Hill Life’s website on May 25, 2016

By Leigh Ann Clifton

Caroline Smith Photo courtesy Sara Sobkoviak

Caroline Smith
Photo courtesy Sara Sobkoviak

Mount Madonna School junior Caroline Smith participated in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League (SCCAL) Track and Field finals and placed fifth among 24 JV runners to get into the trials, and finished seventh in the JV 100-meter dash finals. She earned a medal for her third place finish in the JV high jump, with a jump of four feet, two inches.

“Being a part of track and field has been one of the best parts of this year,” Smith said. “I am so grateful to our coaches, Jenne [Wood-Taylor] and Sara [Sobkoviak] for putting a great deal of their time into our practices and meets, and helping us achieve so much, not only as individual athletes, but as a team.”

“Having an athlete like Caroline, who had never competed in high jump, now placing third in regional competition is quite impressive,” Sobkoviak said. “She was persistent and never gave up trying to figure out the right technique that worked for her to clear that bar. It was tough in the beginning of the season watching her struggle to work out the positioning of her launch and arch of the jump. When she discovered that she in fact could jump from the left side even though she is right handed, everything shifted and she became a major competitor.”

Two teammates, seniors Alex Marshall and Miles Wayne, also competed in the SCCAL finals, 100 meter event.

The three students are part of the Mount Madonna School (MMS) inaugural track and field team. The other team members are: Julia Gratton and Tyler Sullens, 12th; A’Kio Nanamura, Bella Bettencourt, Cat Ching, Isaac Harris, Izzy Thomas and Param Walker, 11th; and Sienna Clifton, 10th.

“Coaching MMS’ inaugural track team with Sara was a fun experience full of learning and firsts for all of us,” said Wood-Taylor. “A couple of athletes were lobbying hard for a track team, and a lot of the credit goes to them for their initiative and tenacity in creating this first team. We were impressed by their enthusiasm and expected a few athletes to sign up. At our first meeting we had a flood of interest, a totally unexpected reaction. We ended up with 12 athletes, most new to the sport, who trained regularly, competed weekly, and completed the season.

“Our athletes competed against students who had trained for multiple seasons, some year-round, and they brought their resolve to try their best, have fun, and push past their own comfort zones,” continued Wood-Taylor. “The diversity of events we jumped into was remarkable as well: we had kids throwing shot put and discus, running relays, doing high jump, running distances from the 100-meter sprint to the two mile. With the exception of one athlete, they were all new to those events.

“One aspect that makes me so glad we said ‘yes’ to coaching this team is the encouragement our athletes gave to each other. The peer support was heartening and definitely inspired us each week. One of my personal highlights was seeing the faces of our kids when they crossed the line or jumped two inches higher than they believed they could. It would be great to see that expression on double the number of faces next year!

“I also want to acknowledge that at each meet we had parents and students who came out to cheer on our athletes,” Wood-Taylor said. “Their outpouring of love added a strong layer of support to our season.”

“Coaching track and field has been an incredible experience,” Sobkoviak said. “Each athlete worked to improve their technique and witnessed how hard work, with consistent and balanced training, helps in competition. We are looking forward to next season and developing the team even more!”

Leigh Ann Clifton is the director of marketing and communications at Mount Madonna School.