Junior runner launches petition to create track class

Athletes, coaches agree that forming a class would make program safer, more competitive; only question is ‘How?’


Camille Wilson

At the Austin Relays at Burger Stadium on March 12, 2020, one day before COVID-19 was first detected in Austin, Kendall Shenoda, Caytie Brown, Stella Davidson, and Zoe Tanner relax between their scheduled events. Tanner launched a petition drive to create a track class at Mac. In addition to making the sport safer and more competitive, Tanner believes it will improve an already strong sense of community among the athletes on the team.

Caroline Owen, staff reporter

Without a designated class period to train during the school day, McCallum track athletes like Zoe Tanner have been left feeling like their sport is an afterthought. 

“The bottom line is, we deserve the same respect as every other sport,” Tanner said. “We deserve the time with the coaches year-round.”

Tanner has started a change.org petition to show how many students would be willing to sign up for the track class. As of Sept. 19, 49 runners have signed it.

The bottom line is, we deserve the same respect as every other sport. We deserve the time with the coaches year-round.

— Zoe Tanner

According to the details tab of the petition, “Currently McCallum High School does not have a class for students interested in track. We instead have to train ourselves in the off-season while balancing all of our classes, jobs and other responsibilities.”

Not only did Tanner start a petition, but she also contacted a McCallum administrator directly to discuss the prospect of a track class.

“I suggested that we set up a meeting with our athletic director Coach Gammerdinger, and our principal Ms. Griffith and start the conversation,” assistant principal Mr. Baxa said. “I said let’s look at early January to talk about it, but we can meet at any time to start the discussion.”

According to Tanner and track coaches Houston and Webb, there are many benefits that would come from creating a track class. 

A primary benefit, Tanner said, is that it would better ensure the health and safety of the runners.

“Weightlifting [in the class] would prevent injuries for us,” Tanner said. “A lot of us get shin splints and other problems in our legs.”

Additionally, Coach Webb said, the extra training would make the team more competitive at meets. 

Head boys track coach Jarred Houston talks with then junior Jonathan Porter at the team’s practice before school on Jan. 21, 2020. In his three years as head coach, Houston has helped to build the track program up. He agrees with the athletes that a class would help that program take another step forward competitively. (Lukas Bednar)

“If you’re working all year-round, you’re gonna really clean up your technique,” Webb said. “I think you would see improved times from the kids.”

According to Coach Houston, having a track class would allow McCallum to be on even competitive footing with the top high school track teams in the region.

“Those kids are training year round,” Houston said. “They’re lifting weights. They’re running hills right now. They have classes, and we don’t have that, so we’re a little bit behind.”

Athletic director Thomas Gammerdinger also sees the benefits in creating a class for the track team.

“If we had a track athletic period, I think it would benefit the program a lot,” Gammerdinger said. “Any time athletes get together and try to advocate for their team and try to advance their program, I think it’s a good thing.”

Those kids are training year round. They’re lifting weights. They’re running hills right now. They have classes, and we don’t have that, so we’re a little bit behind.

— Coach Houston

There are however obstacles that come with adding a new athletic class, especially once the school year is already in full swing. 

“Right now we’re not in the position to add anything extra,” Baxa said. “We don’t make any decisions for next year’s staffing until the springtime.”

According to Gammerdinger, faculty allotment is a big barrier to realizing a new class.

“It’s a difficult process because everybody’s very busy,” he said. “All the classes are very tight.”

Finding enough athletes who want to focus entirely on track might also prove to be an impediment as well, since many runners play multiple sports.

“Oftentimes the students cross-train,” Baxa said. “If you look at the number of students who just do track, we’re probably talking five to seven students total.”

Despite how complicated the process might be, Tanner and the coaches are optimistic that the track class period will eventually be implemented, no matter how long it may take. 

“If we can’t get it for next semester, which is our goal, then we’ll get it for next year, hopefully,” Tanner said. “We’re gonna push really hard.”

No matter the outcome of this petition, the student initiative has certainly brought attention to the track program.

“It’s a really great community,” Tanner said. “I love all the coaches, and I love all my teammates. We’ve all put in the time for this sport.

Spotted by teammate Ellie Knoll, junior Zoey Tanner lifts weights under the supervision of athletic director Thomas Gammerdinger at the first day of summer speed and strength conditioning in the field house on June 7. Tanner and her coaches agree that year-long weightlifting and conditioning would make the track program safer and more competitive. (Dave Winter)