There’s something special about spring sports, including baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, soccer, golf, and my favorite, track and field.

As parents and spectators, we certainly have our fill of games and meets when we’re bundled up and wearing a heavy blanket or two, but still end up freezing or soaked from the rain.

When the weather breaks and we get a Minnesota perfect day of sun and warmth, and the mosquitoes haven’t yet come out in force, it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend time than attending an outdoor sporting event.

My son participates in high school track, and I was fortunate enough to attend many of the meets. I’m a big fan of track because it’s one of the most, if not the most, inclusive school sport. If someone wants to run, jump, or throw, there are events for them. Everyone who follows the rules gets to participate in practices and meets. It’s also really easy to look at times, distances, or heights to see an objective ranking of who the best athletes are in each event to know who competes at the varsity level.

At the boys and girls track banquet on Monday, it was obvious from the way the coaches talked glowingly about the student athletes as they presented awards and recapped the season, and the way the athletes talked appreciatively about their coaches’ influence and support, that there’s a real connection across both teams.

This year, about 90 boys joined the team, including some who came out at the high school level for the first time. From what I saw, everyone appeared to have fun while being competitive.

In his third year as the boys’ team head coach, Zach Haskins, along with his staff, have built a strong and rapidly improving program. The team delivered a strong showing at the South Suburban Conference meet and finished an impressive third place out of 16 teams at sections.

After getting to know Haskins a bit over the last couple years and watching how he engages with other coaches, parents, and student-athletes, it’s easy to see why the team is improving. He regularly communicates with parents to provide accurate information, talks to every person on the team, and makes a point at meets to walk around to each event.

“One of the nice things about being the head coach is that I get to share how important every single person is on this team, whether they’re winning, going to state, competing in conference, or just starting out,” Haskins told me. “I care about them, and I want to see them compete.”

Athletes tend to be more motivated when they know the head coach is authentically interested in how they perform, encourages them, and wants to see them reach their full potential.

“I think this year was a nice step forward. We made some great strides going from seventh place last year to third this year in sections,” Haskins said. “This year we had about 20 seniors who provided solid leadership. They set a high standard. Last year, we had our 4x100 relay team go to state. We wanted to get back there. And now we’re going back in even more events.”

Track allows athletes to watch each other’s events and cheer each other on. There’s a definite sense of comradery and team support at the meets.

Not surprisingly, this environment of teammate support, strong coaching, and internal leadership led to some big successes this season. Several school records were broken, many athletes captured first place in meets, a lot of personal and lifetime bests were set and reset throughout the season, and seven athletes took first or second in sections to qualify for the state meet.

This shows, once again, that Shakopee has tremendously talented athletes who can compete at the highest level in the state. It’s really nice to see.

Brett Martin is a community columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.

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