Your 2017 Panther track team: Front row, from left, Taylor Bennett, Makiya Johnson, Morgan Rempel, Logan Seahorm, Greg Swanson, Joey Gonzales, Cameron Travis, Emanuel Cielo, and Jaxson King. Second row, from left, Haylie Wells, Shianne Baker, Max Schneider, Logan Wells, Thomas Ingraham, Aaron Detterer, Nathan Walton, and Jess Sandoval. Third row, from left, Preston Dew, Brooke Hughes, Gage Bartlett, Sam Schneider, Alicia Zaragoza, Mychaela Jackman, Tiffany Bauer, Kylie Conseen and Sarah Burton. Back row from left, Ashlynn Johnson, Jeremy Detterer, Colton Jones, Alex Ziegler, Ben Fairbanks, Meredith Lincoln, Katie Loose, Shawn O'Toole and Jenna Dew. Not pictured: Lairren Peebles, Trezdon Martinez and Tyler Kuster
If student interest is any gauge of performance, then Saratoga High School's track team has had a quite auspicious beginning to their season.
The Panthers this year will field a contingent of nearly 40 athletes, up from last year when the team had 35 participants. Those on the team embody a sense of school spirit that SHS athletic director Rex Hohnholt hopes will put wind in the sails of other sports at SHS.
"We have more kids on than we've had in a long time and that's really exciting," Hohnholt said. "Seeing these kids have enough pride in their school to compete and challenge themselves in a sport that maybe isn't their forte."
The key with track is to improve week-by-week, Hohnholt said. The students involved are competing against themselves, trying to better their performance every week.
"You can either see what you can do to improve or you can fold your tent and don't see these kids doing that."
Track and field is a lot of work, Hohnholt said, adding that there is the additional pressure of performing solo for the most part. But track and field, besides being a way to bring glory to the school by itself, is also an excellent tool to help athletes in other sports such as football, basketball and volleyball become stronger athletes.
And a rough year for SHS sports is a huge motivation for students to go out for track, he said. "We have kids saying, 'Hey, do we want to make it to regionals or do we want to make it to state? Do we want to make it to state or do we want to win state?'" Hohnholt said.
"This is the way for them not to let each other down and make some growth athletically and physically, to be more fit, stronger, jump higher.
"Track and field contributes to all of those different things and different sports."
The goal of the coaching staff is not only to have a track team that performs well and he hopes does well at regionals or state, but to have a track team that helps develop students into stronger, better athletes in the hope a higher degree of athleticism will translate into success in other sports.
"It's our goal as coaches not only to take pride in our track and field team and but take care of our athletic programs; our goal is to develop a culture of winning." Hohnholt said. "Our goal is to improve our whole athletic program though track and field."
When asked which of the athletes on the team he has the highest expectations from, Hohnholt balked, saying he does not like to highlight individual athletes more than any others.
"Every one of these kids mean a lot to me, from No. 1 to No. 14," he said. "When they do well, I'll pat them on the back as I do every single kid out there."
Through the course of the season, there will be plenty of opportunity for students to earn their individual accolades, but the key for athletes is to challenge themselves to do better every week.
Hohnholt said his goal for every athlete on the team is to get the most out of their personal abilities every time they compete, and to embody a strong sense of school spirit.
The community has its own part to play too, Hohnholt said. The team has always been well supported, he said, saying in the past they have had to turn away volunteers to help at track meets. "When you have 100 people wanting to volunteer for a track meet that makes you feel special," Hohnholt said.
In the end, the hard work and dedication of the athletes and the support of the community are what Hohnholt hopes will buoy all the sports teams at SHS.
"Our goal is to develop a culture of winning," he said before heading off to watch his athletes practice.