As the girl’s 4x400m relay entered its final stage, there was a large gap between the race leader from Choate and Amy Simmonds ’09. However, as Simmonds overtook the race leader and crossed the finish line first, Deerfield coaches and athletes could not help but think about the similar comeback that the track and field program is in the process of making.
The track and field program has not enjoyed much success in recent years. It has failed to peform consistently, often finishing last during many meets. At this year’s first meet, the boys’ team could only manage 35 points against Taft and Andover who scored 50 and 95 points respectively. The girls racked up 43 points to finish in second, but were not close to Andover’s 102 points. However, according to Head Coach Dennis Cullinane, the program is taking actions to improve.
Dr. Cullinane described the track and field team of the past as “a statue of liberty sport”—a sport for kids who have been cut or don’t quite fit into other sports. He acknowledged this system as being “a great feature of Deerfield and a wonderful place for [those kids] to fit in.” However, he feels this system has been partially responsible for the track and field program’s struggles and worries that the system has “sacrificed a competitive spirit.”
Dr. Cullinane expressed that he wants to bring an ‘‘edge’’ and more professionalism to the track and field team and has already taken action to do so.
“One thing we’ve done has been being a little less tolerant about people missing practice, coming late, or not performing.” He explained it is important to “let people know that we have high expectations.”
Recruiting has also been a major change in the track program as this is the first year that there have been efforts to recruit.
Dr. Cullinane is aiming for stability and consistency in the program. He plans on achieving this by developing the distance-running program, hoping that it will become the core of the track team. This reliable distance running core would provide support for the team, while allowing other programs, such as sprinting and jumping to grow—further strengthening the track and field team as a whole.
Despite some of the weaknesses in the track program, the future is bright, as several underclassmen have shown strong potential.
“This will be a pivotal year for us because we have underclassmen who are just phenomenal talents,” Dr. Cullinane explained, “and I think that they feel that they have found a home in track.”
Amongst the many young athletes new to the team this year, Andrew Sutphin ’11 has stood out as one of the most impressive underclassman. Sutphin, a member of jv baseball last year, was discovered as one of the fastest 400m sprinters in New England. He has already made an impact, winning several races individually, as well as with the 4x400m relay team.
With strong foundational skill in many of the underclassmen, Deerfield track and field plans on making a comeback to the forefront of New England.
However, the relay team’s comeback against Choate wasn’t instantaneous. It took the girls hard work and desire to succeed—the same hard work and desire for which Dr. Cullinane and the track and field team are striving.