Charlie Finch waited near the stadium at the Lovett School track as students finished their classes and made their way to the stadium seats, donning shorts and sneakers.
As a no-cut sport, track takes on all students. Finch coaches the girls’ and the boys’ team, and the girls’ team has some standouts that Finch thinks will make an impact this year. This year’s team returns Hannah Hempel, a senior, and Hailey Branch, a sophomore. Both qualified for state last year and hold their place in the school record books.
Hempel’s high jump, at 5 feet 6 inches, is a school record and her long jump is the fourth longest in school history. Branch ran the 1,600 meters in 5 minutes, 16 seconds and 53 milliseconds, making her time the school’s third fastest.
“The way I handle the program, everybody has an equal opportunity to participate,” he said. “You improve individuals so you can improve the team.”
Practice begins at 4 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Finch said he’s respectful of his athletes’ time, but doesn’t tolerate them wasting his. He likes to tell parents that he does play favorites, but becoming one is easy. He likes effort and he likes attitude. Show him both and you’re a favorite.
The athletes and their coach said that the track program brings a diverse group of people together. Most of the runners also take part in another sport. Hempel and Branch both play soccer.
Hempel said she was quick with her feet but lacked the aggressiveness to play soccer competitively. A sport with individual goals synched up well with her ability to jump high and run quickly. Hempel said she gets a rush of energy whenever she steps up to the white line.
Branch meets people who’ve never stepped on a track in their lives and mingles with freshmen and seniors at practice. She said her team members are there for her, and likewise.
Jack Stickney, a senior shortstop for Lovett’s baseball team, is one of five starters returning from last year’s state semifinal team.
Hope Barker, senior goalkeeper for the girls’ soccer team, will be the bedrock of a group that was a state semifinalist last year.
Jordan Cunningham is an All- State and All-American selection in lacrosse, and the team’s the top defenseman. He has signed with the University of Denver.