Springing into action
Tiger multi-sport athletes run to compete, stay in shape
NORTH JACKSON — It isn’t surprising that you’ll find team-sport athletes using track and field as a way to condition.
Whether it’s on the gridiron, the hardwood, the pitch, or the mat, the results on the composite rubber urethane during the spring translates well to the other seasons.
Take a pair of multi-sport participants at Springfield High School as a prime example.
Both junior Beau Brungard and sophomore Graciella Ebert competed and found success Tuesday afternoon at Jackson-Milton High School, against other schools like Liberty, Mineral Ridge, and the host Blue Jays.
Brungard, a quarterback and point guard for the Tigers, ran in events such as the 110m hurdle, 300m hurdle, 4×200 relay, and the 4×400 relay.
Posting a new personal-best within the 110 hurdle (15.16), the junior posted the mark while facing some adversity Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s pretty rough running a track meet whenever there’s strong wind, and a couple of my races I had to run right into that wind,” he said, “but it’s a really good day for conditioning. (There’s) not as many schools here and it’s just a good day for conditioning to get better and I think so far it’s going well.
“(The wind) really just slows you down and brings back your momentum, so you really just have to power through it, especially on the 300s. I had to start with that wind coming right at me, and you just have to power through that first 100 meters.”
A key cog in the wheel for the Tigers girls relay teams is sophomore Graciella Ebert, a cheerleader and competitive gymnast running the 4×100, 4×200, the 200 and the high jump.
Posting a season-best in the 4×200 with a mark of 1:51:00, the most important aspect of relays is simple — trust.
“It’s basically all in trust,” Ebert said. “You have trust the mark and the other people because if you don’t trust your mark and the other people, it basically doesn’t work out. But the more trust you have, the better off it goes.
“It helps you know that you have teammates always by your side, and they’re always cheering you through every event you do.”
Both individuals use the spring track and field season to improve their physical condition for their other sports — regardless of the sport they play, the benefits of running are quite clear.
“It helps your stamina and all your leg strength, which is like a really big thing in gymnastics and cheer,” Ebert said. “I think it really overall helps. I’ve been doing track since I was in seventh grade, so it’s more of I knew I was a sprinter, and it was what I was best at and what was best for the team.”
Brungard is far from the only player who tosses the pigskin and runs during the offseason. Over the past couple seasons, Springfield has found plenty of success under the Friday night lights, something that is partially credited to track.
“I think the running events like the 300 hurdles, the 400s, it really helps your conditioning, just like getting toward the end of a basketball game or a football game,” he said. “Everyone else is getting tired, but all track season you’re just grinding out those races, and it really helps strengthen your legs and keep you in shape. So when you get to the end of the game like that, you’re just in better shape than everyone else and perform at a higher level.
“I think this year a lot of our football guys came out and did track, just so you can get in better shape and help improve our team.”
Ebert missed out on her freshman campaign last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and from her perspective, the jump between junior high and high school track is huge.
“It’s definitely way more competitive,” she said. “Middle school meets, there’s only four or five people in every event. This meet, you get to over 20 in some events. It just makes you want to push yourself even harder because you want to be in those top however-many places.”
She, along with Bella Brown, Mary-Grace Mason, and Ava Vecchione, hope to break the school’s 4×100 time, with the group’s season-best just being under a second of the Tigers’ record.
“It was really hard adjusting to how many people there were, and it just made me push myself to aspects I didn’t know I could push myself to,” she said. “My times have gotten a lot better, and our relays and our team overall has improved so much.”
The duo, along with the rest of the Tigers, will continue their march to the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference meet May 13 at Champion High School.