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‘Small but mighty’: Varsity track and field adapts to challenges with team size

With+their+water+bottles+in+hand%2C+Chloe+Hayden+%28%E2%80%9924%29%2C+Maya+Acutt+%28%E2%80%9925%29%2C+Alex+Bridwell+%28%E2%80%9927%29%2C+Sophie+Cousens+%28%E2%80%9927%29+walk+across+the+West+LA+College+field+during+their+first+track+and+field+meet+of+the+season.+The+team+has+faced+challenges+due+to+its+size%2C+but+the+runners+have+persevered+through+them+and+stayed+committed%2C+Athletics+Assistant+Madison+Witt+said.%C2%A0Photo+by+Archer+Athletics.
With their water bottles in hand, Chloe Hayden (’24), Maya Acutt (’25), Alex Bridwell (’27), Sophie Cousens (’27) walk across the West LA College field during their first track and field meet of the season. The team has faced challenges due to its size, but the runners have persevered through them and stayed committed, Athletics Assistant Madison Witt said. Photo by Archer Athletics.

While over 1 million students compete in high school outdoor track and field each year, there are only five athletes on Archer’s varsity track and field team: Chloe Hayden (’24), Maya Acutt (’25), Alex Bridwell (’27), Sophie Cousens (’27) and Phoebe Measer (’27).

The varsity track and field team competed in their first league meet March 1 at West L.A. College. Bridwell ran the 400-meter race and finished in third place. Hayden ran the 400-meter and 200-meter races and finished in first place for both events. The team has gotten smaller in the past few years; it is currently the smallest out of all Archer sports.

Hayden has been running track and field since she was in sixth grade and joined the varsity track and field team her ninth grade year. Additionally, she was recruited to the University of Chicago last summer, and she committed in September 2023. She said her senior track season has been bittersweet because she will be sad to leave Archer but looks forward to continuing to grow as an athlete and run track in college.

Hayden said the small team size has allowed her to bond further with her teammates, but that there are significant obstacles the team faces. For example, they do not have enough athletes to dedicate groups within their team to sprints or long distance events.

“It is nice to have a close-knit team, but it also is difficult because of practice and training,” Hayden said. “We all have to practice together, so some people whose specialty might be better suited for long distance might not have any training partners. It makes a difference. Usually, we run similar events during practice, so it is harder for people who want to branch out and try other events because they won’t have people to run with.”

Athletics Assistant Madison Witt said runners often feel more support behind them when part of a larger team. However, she said she believes the runners on the varsity track and field team feel the same level of support because of the athletes’ commitment to cheering each other on to reach their goals. She described the team as “small but mighty.”

Hayden said the team has pushed through challenges with training as a small group by focusing on accomplishing their individual goals. Acutt shared a time when the team adapted to an unexpected circumstance during a California Interscholastic Federation meet last year.

“Last year, we had a four-by-one team, so a relay team, and there were four people,” Acutt said. “One of our teammates got injured at the last meet of the season, but we had we qualified for CIF, so the other girls subbed in for her.”

Track and field can be a very isolating sport since runners mostly compete in individual races, Acutt said. However, Witt said there is still a sense of team success.

“The result is based off of how the each girl does, but it is a team result,” Witt said. “I think their own individual success helps the team as a whole.”

Similarly, Hayden described the difference between individual and group success and how the team balances their focus on both during training and meets. She said it is encouraging to have her teammates beside her while going through difficult training or moments, and that team success can sometimes be just being there for one another.

“Individual success is more so about the times you run, so I feel it’s less like, ‘I won this event,’ but more like, ‘Did I improve from last week? Have I gotten better on my form? Did I feel more relaxed? Do I feel more prepared?'” Hayden said. “For group success, ideally, we always try to win our league. We want to get the most points … The group success is trying to win the league, but also celebrating each other when we do achieve personal records.”

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About the Contributor
Emily Paschall, Senior Reporter
Emily Paschall joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022. She is now a senior reporter. She participates in dance at Archer. She is also a part of the Ambassador Leadership Team Advisory Board and Dance Leadership Team. In her free time, Emily enjoys spending time with family and friends, listening to K-pop or Taylor Swift, and playing with her dog.

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