LHS runners take to the streets

LHS runners take to the streets

From left: junior Kimberly McCarthy, junior Madison Foye, senior Alexa Repko, and senior Devean Theriault

Gina Orlandi, Guest Writer

New sneakers, crowded locker rooms, and packs of familiar faces from school running through the streets of Ludlow means one thing: track season is here.  It’s the time of year that runners have been looking forward to since their last cross country meet in late fall and have been working towards during the ridiculously freezing conditions of this past winter.

With warm weather melting away excuses to put off running, more people are starting to hit the pavement.  Over the past few years the running scene at Ludlow High School has taken a drastic turn for the better and you don’t want to miss out.

According to Rebecca Gauvin, both the track coach and cross country coach at LHS for 16 and 11 years respectively,  when she began coaching the program was very different.

“For track and field they had lost 40 meets in a row when I first began.  The second year we won one meet.  And since then we have been pretty successful.  We’ve had a Western Mass Championship in track and several Western Mass Champions.  For cross country, we were not very good and really struggled.  We were never the top in Western Mass.  Since then the athletes started to believe in the training and hard work has paid off.  Now we’ve been in the top five consistently over the last eight years.”

Stephanie Gomes, a new freshman English teacher, has returned to Ludlow as an assistant cross country and track coach after running for Ludlow in high school, continuing at Boston’s Emmanuel College, and on her own over the past nine years.

Gomes has noticed that, “The distance runners for both cross country and track are all more hardworking than they used to be.  They’re serious about going on their runs and they really want to do better.   It takes a lot more to be a varsity runner now than it used to because there are a lot more talented runners on the team who are willing to give it their all.”

Gomes says that what hasn’t changed is the “supportive, family feel” that comes from being on a team.  It’s this atmosphere that draws people into the sport and encourages them to improve.

Gauvin agrees that the program is made up of “dedicated, hard working, good kids.  There’s a family atmosphere, everyone gets along for the most part and there’s just a positive team feeling.  A lot of the time kids even come back after they graduate to find their old teammates to run with.”

Sylwia Lipior, a junior at Ludlow High School and teammate on the track and cross country team, finds that “Being on a team is one of the greatest feelings in the world. I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without my teammates. We all push each other to be better and work harder, but it’s also a fun experience because of team bonding with games and pasta suppers.”

If you’re the type of person who feels that being chased by a mob of zombies is the only thing that would ever provoke you to run for a prolonged period of time, then you should reconsider.  A lot of runners started out with some misconceptions too.

I’m sure most would be surprised to hear this, but the enthusiastic physics teacher trying to strike up a conversation with you about running for his track team in between classes once made fun of his brother for running because he thought it was “stupid.”  After about 25 years of running, Brian Walsh is the perfect example of how your first impression could be a little off.

“Starting can be the biggest difference maker in your life,” he exclaims with his eyes lighting up.  “Not only do you get more physically fit, but every aspect of your life becomes better.  You think better, you learn better, you become a better student.  The physical fitness alone builds that confidence that starts to make you think, hey, I feel good about myself.  And if you feel better about yourself, you’re going to be better at everything you do.”

The choice to begin is often the hardest step, but with some effort your work won’t be wasted.  Success stories are everywhere, even the hallways of LHS.

Looking back, Lipior is amazed that she used to “struggle with one-mile runs.”  After the initial pain of beginning, she has held the freshmen mile record for track, is one of the top runners on her track and cross country team, and as of late February has completed her first half marathon finishing in the top two for her age group.

Even Gomes who has completed two marathons, one half marathon, and a marathon relay race once started out not being able to finish the under two mile Haviland Pond loop.  After the inevitably rough start, running can be addictive.  Gomes claims that what motivates her is the feeling of accomplishment.

“Every time I finish a marathon I say ‘I’m not going to do this again for a while.’  Every single time.  But then the next thing you know I’m already planning for another one.  It’s exhausting and it’s so hard in the moment but it’s such an amazing feeling that you just want to do it again.  There’s nothing like running a race like that, you finish and you feel so accomplished.  It’s the best feeling ever.”

To start you don’t need a big collection of marathon medals and a wall in your room exclusively for hanging up race bibs.  To join in all you really need are shoes, a few streets to run on, and some motivation .  Before long you’ll be among the packs of runners that you pass by in your car after school because fortunately, in the words of Gauvin, “running is one of those things where you get back what you put in.”