“My main focus has always been to build a healthy, fun program that builds the foundational skills needed to be successful in the sport,” says Nick Ricciardi, head coach of the Oyster River high school indoor track team.
As the weather gets colder and the snow begins to fall, the team is lacing up their sneakers and getting to work in preparation for the upcoming season. The team has encountered great success in recent years, thanks in part to the multitude of talented runners, along with the leadership skills of Ricciardi and distance coach Scott McGrath. But as two of the team’s top runners, Patrick O’Brien (‘17) and Maegan Doody (‘16), have taken their talents to the collegiate level, the Bobcats are looking to rebuild from these losses. Luckily, Oyster River has a wide range of athletes, from seasoned upperclassmen to fresh newcomers, that are ready to take the reigns of the Oyster River track team.
McGrath is hopeful for the distance runners this year, noting Kieran Murphy (‘18), Danielle Slavin (‘18), and Henry Keegan (‘19) as standouts. “I’d like to help them win individual titles in either the 1500m or 3000m,” he says. Mcgrath continues to list a number of athletes in which he sees great potential. “Honestly, I expect this year’s team to be deeper and stronger than last from a distance athlete perspective,” he says.
While the sprinters have most of their major point scorers returning this year, Ricciardi and his athletes have another issue to grapple with. Along with this year’s new start time, it was announced that all athletic teams would not be allowed to practice before school in the gym. This is especially troubling for the sprinters, as they’ve held morning practices a few times a week in previous years. “Losing mornings is going to have a detrimental effect on our team,” Ricciardi says. “It is putting a crunch on the gym space and will mean that the track kids will have to train on surfaces that are not ideal.” Despite this setback, Ricciardi is determined to find a way to make up for it. “As a coach, I will need to navigate losing the opportunity to practice in the morning, something that has always benefited the program,” he says.
In addition to the coaches’ hopes for the team as a whole, the athletes have personal goals they hope to accomplish this season. Laurel Gordon (‘19) is hoping to beat her best time in at least one event. “This season is all about staying healthy and really taking care of myself while also pushing myself to be the best I can be,” she says. “This means focusing on my training, eating well, and staying hydrated.”
In addition to setting goals for himself, Connor Manning (‘18) is looking forward to taking on the leadership roles that often come along with being a senior on the team. “Hopefully I can instill the spirit of the track team on to the underclassmen so that it can be carried on throughout the years,” he says. Both Manning and Gordon typically race in the 55m and 300m, as well as the 4×200, 4×160, and 4×160 relays.
Gordon, Manning, and the rest of the Bobcats will compete for the first time this season on Saturday, December 16th at 9 am at The University of New Hampshire.