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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest coach hopes indoor track will spring athletes into successful outdoor season

Feb 22, 2022 09:18PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High senior Erin Atkinson, seen here racing at the Utah Olympic Oval, hopes her indoor season help her prepare for a successful outdoor track season. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

With just one indoor track meet remaining, Hillcrest High senior Erin Atkinson took to the Utah Olympic Oval in the 3200—her favorite race.

Utah high school indoor track typically has about a half-dozen races during the winter months, but coming off of no races held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some traditional meets weren’t held. This year, Hillcrest’s indoor team of about 20 athletes, have only competed in a handful of meets and Atkinson was sick for one of those.

Even though Atkinson was improving from being sick during the Distance Challenge meet on Feb. 4, she ran with her lungs burning—and bettered her own indoor 3200 school record by a few seconds at 13:32.47.

“I think it could have been better if I wasn’t sick,” she said. “(Coach Scott) Stucki told me I should be able to run in the high 12s or 13 flat.”

Atkinson owns all of Hillcrest’s indoor distance races 1600 meters and longer in the three years of competition during her four years in high school.

In the last indoor meet of the season, the 2022 UHSTCA Invitational Championships Feb. 11-12, she had hoped to improve her own 1600 mark and beat the existing 800 school record held by her former teammate, Paris Snow.

“Paris outkicked me in the last stretch, so her record is faster than my indoor PR (personal record),” she said about the race two years ago.

With a commanding lead for most of the heat, she fell short of setting a new record at the finish line.

Atkinson hopes her training, which includes longer mileage, weightlifting and conditioning, will translate into a successful spring season. 

That’s what coach Stucki hopes for all his athletes.

“They’re getting more competition, more fitness, more chances to improve technique,” he said. “We spend more time in the weight room in the winter than we do during the outdoor season so they can get stronger as well. For the most part, those kids who do indoor don’t have as many injuries because they’re not all of a sudden jumping into running.”

Atkinson, who has competed in two state cross country meets and with her top 10 region cross country finish last fall was named to the second team region, already has goals in mind for the 800, 1600 and 3200. She also wants to compete at the 5A state meet, which will be held May 19 and 21 at Brigham Young University.

The Huskies open their outdoor track season March 9 against Skyline and East, which will be held at East High.

Hillcrest won’t host a track meet this spring because their throwing fields have yet to be completed as part of the last phase of construction, the coach said.

Stucki, who has coached indoor track for nine seasons and has been the head coach of outdoor track since 2007, said the team plans to travel for meets throughout the Salt Lake Valley, but also to invitational meets in Juab and Davis counties. 

Hillcrest competes in region 7, which stretches from Tooele to Vernal, where the Huskies will travel to compete at Uintah High in April and again, when the Uintah Utes host the region meet, May 11-12. As the team will stay overnight, transportation and housing may limit the number of Hillcrest athletes who compete in region, Stucki said.

As far as the Huskies’ track leaders, Stucki is uncertain, knowing that a great number of athletes graduated last spring and others are injured. In addition to Atkinson, he has expectations of senior Alycea McVey being in the forefront of the female throwers, junior Olivia Backus heading up sprints and long jump, and senior Derek Croft and juniors Sam Timmerman and Sam Martin leading the boys’ distance races.

“Cedar Valley has a kid who’s really good and Stansbury has a lot of depth,” he said looking at the regional competition. “I’m not sure who is going to score a bunch of points for us. We’ve had some kids transfer in and I don’t know what they can do, but hopefully they can help us. I just have no idea. It depends too on how many athletes I can get from other sports. I think we have some kids that may be pretty good; there’s always a few kids who surprise me. Hopefully, we will get a bunch of those.”