Athens Track and Field Comes with a Handshake< < Back to
Ohio is one of the few places where, in April, it can be 70 degrees one day and 30 the next. Wednesday was one of those cold 30-degree snow days, but the Athens High school Track and Field team didn’t let that stop them from hitting the track.
“We train so much better than other teams,” Distance Runner Cami Hibbard said. “Other teams are taking this day off because it’s cold. We are still out here going hard and that really pays off later in the season; it’s just because we work harder- we are tough and I think we have a great coach backing us.”
That attitude of practicing, even when others aren’t, is exactly what has brought them success. The girls have won each of the last nine TVC-Ohio championships and the boys are winners of eight of the last nine.
While they still hit the track in the cold, Adam Gonczy, Athens’ coach for 12 years, said they still take advantage of their inside training facility.
“Having the field-house has been great, especially on a day like this, when it’s cold or rainy,” he said. “Instead of canceling, we can work on technical things like handoffs, getting hand placements on sticks and hurdle drills.”
On the bad-weather days it can be difficult to get an entire track team together, and with a team of 95 kids it can be a lot. But Gonczy said he doesn’t see practice as the problem, he said he believes it is an escape for him and the team.
“Track practice could be a sanctuary for the athletes,” he said. “We’ve got two hours where they can be a track family; even if they’re feeling a little sick and they’re at 80 percent, I just want their best 80 percent.”
It can be a challenge for a coach to get on a personal level with everyone, but Cami says he does just that.
“He cares about your family, just how your doing in school, he really wants to get to know you,” she said. “He does his best to help, and he has some things that are very important to him: Handshakes are super important.”
Those handshakes come with a special meaning.
“My mom told me the importance of giving a handshake in 8th grade,” Gonczy said. “I have them give me a handshake before they leave every practice.”
He uses the handshakes as a way to tribute his late mother because he said he believes that the one-on-one contact of a good handshake can help the students win life’s race.
“It’s kind of my way to carry on my mom’s tradition and her life,” he said. “I know that they’re gaining that life skill that when they go to a job interview or a scholarship interview, they’re gonna leave a lasting impression with that handshake.”