Brian Hall’s philosophy on how to build a solid track team begins with the individual athlete. If the Hopkinton girls coach can train athletes to perform at their very best, wins, championships and accolades will inevitably follow.
“Every year the coaches get together with the (athletic director) and he asks us to write down our goals,” Hall said prior to Wednesday’s Tri Valley League meet against Medway. “In order it’s to keep them healthy, work on personal improvement (personal records), win the league and be competitive on the state level. If you go in that order things kind of take care of themselves. I just really try to keep them healthy.”
Hall’s formula for success can’t be disputed for the simple fact numbers don’t lie. With the Hillers’ 84-52 win over Medway, Hopkinton upped its consecutive meet win streak to a whopping 103, dating back to the second meet of the 2006 spring season. In that time, Hopkinton has captured 12 Tri Valley League titles — six indoors and six outdoors. The Hillers are off to a good start at 4-0 and are focused on a run at a seventh TVL title.
It was almost by accident three years ago that Hall realized his Hillers had an impressive streak building. Hall was selected as Coach of the Year by a pair of media outlets and they asked about his teams’ records. He researched the performances and was a bit surprised that Hopkinton was at 60-plus wins and counting.
“I thought, ‘Well that’s pretty neat,’ but I didn’t think much about it, and we certainly weren’t keeping track at that point,” Hall said. “When we got a little closer to 100, I kept it under my hat, but I shared it with my captains.”
This spring, Hall has a solid contingent of captains who are very much aware of the streak and who are determined to keep the 62-member squad focused on taking care of business. Seniors Jennifer Lynds, Hannah Krueger, Kaelynn Maloney and Mirelle Raza have Hall’s complete trust as leaders. Maloney, who has her college choices narrowed to Colby and the Vermont, still finds the streak somewhat intimidating.
“Personally, coming into the program, I was amazed that each year we finished the season with zero losses,” Maloney said. “I didn’t really look at it as 100 wins in a row spanning six years. It’s exciting after each meet, whether it’s a big win or not, knowing we kept the streak alive. We don’t take if for granted that we’re winning. It’s a big motivator.”
Raza, who will compete in the sprints and hurdles at Santa Clara University, takes the streak very seriously. That intensity, she hopes, filters through the team. “We take each meet one at a time,” Raza said. “We don’t want to lose in our senior year of high school. It’s up to us (captains) to keep the girls motivated. Track is very hard-core here. You do track because you want to do it, not because it’s your last option.”
Hall believes the streak and the overall success of the program is key in drawing youngsters to the sport. In its inaugural season last summer, the Hopkinton Youth Track program drew more than 100 bright-eyed kids, eager to compete.
“We have 23 freshman excited about track,” Hall said. “It doesn’t get old. From year to year, we’re integrating the younger kids in. To score on this level as a freshman is a pretty tough thing, but we’ve had seven or eight score already.
“This isn’t an easy league. Holliston was the biggest competitor early on, about four or five years ago, then Medfield and now Medfield and Westwood are very strong programs. If you look at the Div. 3 results they score quite a bit of points.”
Team leadership alone doesn’t win meets. A winning program requires quality athletes and Hall has plenty of them. Melissa Lodge and Shelby Aarden have run 5:17 and 5:26 in the mile, respectively, and were invited to compete in Sunday’s BAA Scholastic Mile as part of the Boston Marathon weekend of special events. Lynds has cleared 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump and Krueger has sailed above 5 feet to pace a squad that also has three other jumpers at 4-10. Lindsay Hall has thrown 115 feet in the javelin and Jess Scott has long jumped 17-8 and owns a personal best of 25.9 for the 200-meter dash.
Hall jokingly said he is afraid the girls will look at him as the boy who cried wolf. In several instances he has told his team that they are in for a tough meet and the result is Hopkinton coming up with big wins. “They just really step up,” said Hall.