Some athletes and coaches look at indoor track as a bridge between the fall and spring high school sports seasons.
Others join to have a chance to hang out with their friends, while still being involved in a competitive atmosphere.
Whatever the reason, the local high school indoor track teams have shown a steady growth in participation the past few years.
Gloversville's Chanel Thomas, second from left, and Amanda Cabrera-Case, third from left, compete in the 55-meter hurdles Saturday at the University at Albany. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Fonda-Fultonville and Gloversville reported record turnouts this season with more than 100 athletes signing up, while Broadalbin-Perth has returned to running on a full-time basis this season after participating on a limited schedule last year. Amsterdam has joined the ranks of the indoor track competition, fielding a team for the first time this year.
"We have more than 100 kids on the team in the first year," coach Kevin Wilary said. "The main reason we got this program started is that we really wanted to help our program in the outdoor season. In the winter, there normally wasn't anything for most of them to do. The kids have been the ones who have been pushing us to get a team together. They kept going to the athletic director and saying 'We need indoor track. We need indoor track.' There are also kids on the outdoor team that are playing basketball or wrestling right now, so they are not necessarily sitting around."
Plans for the team came together quickly.
"We have been talking about getting a team going for a couple of years now," Wilary said. "We have a new athletic director [Randy Hutto] and we talked to him about the possibility of starting an indoor team. We did not think it was going to happen this year. When we finished our cross-country sectionals, he came up to us and said 'I think I am going to be able to get you an indoor team.'"
Wilary pointed out that the coaching staff has volunteered its time for the inaugural season.
"It is a little bit different this year. All the coaches, Jamie Julia, who pretty much runs the practices, me, Stu Palczak, Coach [Maura] Dargush and Coach [Mandy] Davie are volunteering and doing as much as we can. Coach Palczak also coaches wrestling and I coach with the swim team. Even coach [Joe] Hart, who coaches the Fonda-Johnstown swim team, helps out with the jumpers when he can."
Fonda-Fultonville coach Mark Therrien said participating in track and field, whether it is indoors or outdoors, is ideal for many student athletes.
"Society is becoming so individualized that the team aspect is not the dominant force anymore," he said. "People like being an individual and this is the perfect sport in which to be an individual in a team concept. You get the best of both worlds."
Therrien said that while the Braves and Lady Braves are consistently among the contenders for league and sectional championships, the competition is only part of the draw for the student athletes.
"The social aspect of the sport is as big a draw as anything else," he said. "You participate in your events and in between, you get a chance to hang out with your friends. I also think a lot of the kids are getting bored and are looking for something to do for themselves and not have to go out and do it with anybody else. They get a chance to go out and participate in a race and still be able to hang out with their friends. Just look around, society wants every kids to be an individual, here is your chance."
Coaches say success breeds success and the interest in the track teams is proof.
"It gives the kids something to believe in," Gloversville coach Steve Wendt said. "When there is success in a program, the kids follow it because they want to be successful. The main thing we preach is that if you practice and have fun, success will take care of itself. It is to the point where we have kids going out and recruiting other kids because they want them to be part of it."
Therrien echoed Wendt's statement, saying, "Dave Petersen has always said that success breeds, success and we have been fortunate enough to be successful. That is where we are getting a lot of numbers from."
Wendt also pointed out that having the majority of the coaching staff on campus has helped build and keep the interest in the programs.
"The relationship not only on the field in terms of athletics but in the education setting is huge. It becomes almost like a family and we take pride in that," Wendt said. "We have a really good coaching staff and have some coaches who put their time in and aren't even paid. They volunteer their time because they care about the kids. We have kids who really work hard to be their best and we are very fortunate to have that."
While the teams tend to participate in meets once a week, often on Saturday or Sunday at venues like the University at Albany, Union College or Hudson Valley Community College, the goal is still to be the best.
"During outdoor season, we tend to analyze every event to see where we can get the most points, but right now, we are just trying to have some fun, relax and get the kids in shape," Wilary said. "We are putting kids in events to have some fun, but down the line, we hope to be competitive in sectionals. Our goal this season is to win the Big 10 meet and with the talent we have on the team, we could have a couple of kids qualify for the state meet as well."