Participation strong for fledgling Shepaug track program

WASHINGTON - Starting last year with a handful of athletes, the Shepaug High indoor track team has turned into a thriving team in just its second season.

Forty Spartans have turned out for the team, and coach Tara Flaherty couldn’t be happier.

“Indoor track is in just its second season at Shepaug and the transformation has been amazing,” Flaherty said. “We threw it together last season and thought we were going to have four athletes. We ended up with 12. This season, to have 40 kids out for the team, it’s awesome.”

After a successful trial run last winter, word spread and the program has taken off, filling a void for some athletes and giving all of them a competitive outlet and a way to bridge the fall and spring seasons while staying in shape.

“We had a lot of kids get interested because they wanted to do something in the winter and stay in shape,” Flaherty said. “Swimming is a really specific sport and basketball teams are smaller so we are really filling a need for some athletes and opening avenues so that kids that did not have a sport to participate in the winter have something now.”

Signups took place at the end of the fall and as they went on Flaherty could see the list growing and growing. It was exciting and at the same time it started to look like a lot for one coach to handle. Fortunately there was some support and help for the program to lean on.

“I was really excited about the numbers growing but then I realized I was going to need an assistant coach to be able to figure out how to do this,” Flaherty said. “The district has been supportive and Jim Stinson, our boys soccer coach has stepped up.

Stinson, who ran track, has been a great addition to the staff according to coach Flaherty and the duo has been able to divide and conquer as far as the coaching responsibilities for the team goes.

The Berkshire League does not have an indoor track schedule, so the Spartans will train and run invitational meets, including the McReavy Invitational and Haddam Killingworth Invitational and hope to get a number of athletes qualified for the state championship meet in February.

On the girls side, Flaherty expects sophomore sprinter Olivia Tibbatts to do well along with Aileen Rosa, a sophomore who qualified for states as a freshman and will move to mid distance events this season. Junior Emma Krebs is coming back from injury and should also be a storng part of the team later this winter.

Senior cross country standout Sean Parker leads the boys side after a cross country season that saw him win the Stratton Brook Invitational, the Winding Trails Invitational, the Nonnewaug Invitational, The Berkshire League Championship, and the Class S Championship.

“Sean came into is own in outdoor last season and his cross country season in the fall was just great,” Flaherty said. “He is just flying and came into the season in great shape.”

Chandler Wetherbee and James Kennedy are expected to be strong contributors on the boys side whbile Flaherty looks for candidates to fill out some relay spots and develop from athletes ti runners.

“We have a lot of good athletes but they are new to track,” Flaherty said. “Thery are learning starts, suing blocks, holding the baton. There is a lot to learn but they are great kids, both the boys and girls teams, and they really compete. It’s going to be a fun season.”