FAIRBORN — With the Spring high school track and field season barely three days old, Tuesday’s March 28 Fairborn-Xenia dual track meet was the perfect time for the two Greater Western Ohio Conference foes to get used to competing against someone other than themselves.
While visiting Xenia kept half of its 80-some kids home to practice, enabling many of the team’s 63 freshmen and sophomores the chance to get acclimated to the feel of a track competition, host Fairborn often had a monopoly of competitors in each event.
“You want to get the kids out here and get times on everybody. That’s all we wanna do,” explained Fairborn coach John Barr who, as the event host, was tugging a cart full of starting blocks back to the front of the track after the 400-meter relay, while he spoke.
Just then, Xenia track coach Matt Bartley yelled over to Barr to let him know that the Buccaneers hadn’t enough runners on hand to field any 1,600-meter relay teams for the afternoon’s final event.
“C’mon, man!” Barr said with a smile. “I’ve got three 4×400 teams ready to go.”
And so Barr ran the event without Xenia. Fairborn finished 1-2-3 in the unscored event.
As a final playful dig, Barr announced over the public address system for the Xenia athletes, which had begun filing out of the FHS track and heading for the team bus, to wait for their slowpoke coach.
Barr said the two Greene County area schools have had the annual early season dual meet now for at least the past 10 years. Bartley said it’s a good way to get the kids to understand what a high school track meet is all about.
“It’s good for these guys to get out here and get some running in. It’s nice to run up against some competition. It’s not their buddy that they’re running against,” Bartley said. “We’re trying to split up our team early, because we’re trying to give everybody a chance to run. We figure the more that they can run, the more fun they’ll have being on the team, and the more likely that they’ll stay around. So the first three weeks, we’re trying to make sure that everybody runs three events.
“But everybody’s going to compete on April 13th, when we go over to Miami Trace for a meet.”
By then, Bartley figures everyone will have an idea of what events each athlete will be focused on for the remainder of the season.
Fairborn boys coach Chris Hunter said the meet is a chance for his athletes to try an event they might not otherwise be completely comfortable in, too.
“It’s a chance to let everybody run an event. And for some people, it’s a chance to run in an event they might not run all year,” Hunter said. “It gives them a chance to have a little bit of competition on top of that, too. … Racing in races like this, you also get to run against your teammates. And it gives me a better idea of who I can put where.”
Fairborn will split up its team on Saturday. Barr says half of the Skyhawks will compete at a Clayton Northmont track meet, while the other half will visit New Carlisle Tecumseh and test out that school’s new track.
“They invited us, and so we’re going. It’ll be another good early experience for our kids,” he said.
The group of Buccaneer athletes who did not compete in the Fairborn meet will compete Friday at Riverside Stebbins. Then Tuesday’s Buc bunch will return to Stebbins the following week for a fully automated timing meet.
“That way, we’ll know what they can run. (The event timing and distances) are done by a machine, so the athlete can’t tell us they ran a 12.1, when the computer says they ran a 13.1,” Bartley said. “We’ll know what they can do.”