Brentwood track and field making ‘huge strides’

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Sunday, May 9, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Brentwood track and field athletes, guided by veteran coach Mike Cramer, are a goal-oriented group.

“We have been focusing on the positives and the situations that we can control this year,” Cramer said. “The kids have worked their tails off and have made huge strides (pun intended).

“All the athletes wrote goals at the beginning of the year so they had a purpose and a meaning for putting in the work, and it has paid off. Many of their goals have been achieved and new goals have been written. We will see where we end up in a month.”

The Spartans were looking forward to a possible banner 2020 season until the team was shut down due to the global pandemic.

“We are obviously disappointed for our seniors that didn’t get to compete last year,” Cramer said. “It was a group that featured the school record 1,600-meter relay team and kids that had been with us since seventh grade. We have been focusing on what could be.

“As coaches, we need to find a way to get the kids back in the program. We need to make them realize that track will help them get faster, jump further or higher, be more explosive … you name it. All these things will help you be a better athlete even if track is not your main sport.

“The benefits of track and field are countless, but its hard work. I think kids that are used to playing team sports are intimidated to put themselves out there because there is nowhere to hide in track. They need to realize they are competing against the clock or the tape measure and they have to have goals and a work ethic to make themselves better.”

One of the top athletes on the boys team is an underclassman, sophomore Carter Betz, a sprinter/jumping specialist.

“Carter never takes a workout off and comes every day to get better,” Cramer said. “He has improved his times dramatically in the sprints and has been working on his long and high jump.”

Betz also competes in basketball and soccer, and participates in AAU basketball with games or tournaments almost every weekend.

“Due to covid and quarantine last year, I was not able to participate in a track season,” Betz said, “so technically this is my first high school season. I am grateful to have this opportunity to participate in track.

“My goals this season include qualifying for WPIALs and continuing to work hard, getting stronger and faster. My goals also include maintaining a successful academic and athletic career.”

Aiden Wardzinski provides a healthy supply of senior leadership for the Spartans. Wardzinski, a sprinter, will continue his football career at Marietta in the fall.

“Aiden understands the importance of running track and how that translates to the football field,” Cramer said. “We talk daily about explosion out of the blocks, foot placement, shin angles, arm movement, posture, etc., and as a result he has vastly improved his times in both the 100 and 200. He is another hard-working, coachable athlete that keeps me laughing.”

The biggest surprise on the boys team has been junior distance runner Marc Accamando, who played the sweeper position in soccer in the fall.

“Mark is a soccer player that was always working out on the track before we started practice for the first two weeks of the season,” Cramer said. “After convincing him to come to a few practices and try a track meet, he has been all in. I think, hope, he has been bitten by the track bug.

“I have been saying this a lot, but he is by far one of the hardest workers I have ever seen. I must have Dr. (Ian) Shortt, our distance coach, explain to him that sometimes we must rest just as hard as we work out. He doesn’t want to take a break.

“I think, at the moment, his best race is the 3,200 and that may be what he focuses on for WPIALs. But I wouldn’t count out the 800. He has the speed to compete there as well.”

Two juniors and senior sprinter/jumper Abbey Czerwien have been setting the pace for the girls squad.

“Abbey has been a consistent point-scorer in the sprints and triple and long jump,” Cramer said. “I don’t think Abbey has missed a practice since she started with us in seventh grade. She’s another super kid who is very coachable.”

Czerwien has a 4.09 GPA and plans to attend college in the fall. She also played volleyball at Brentwood.

“My season’s going well,” Czerwien said. “My last year of high school track has been very memorable.”

Ava Barker and Martha Deng are juniors. Barker’s best race is the 400. At the end of April. her fastest time in the event was 1:03.

“Ava will outwork anyone on the team, hands down, and one of her best qualities is she is coachable,” Cramer said. “She is one of the most polite and hard-working athletes I have ever had.

“She has excelled in the 100 and 200 as well, but I think with her cross country background combined with her speed, she may begin to focus on the 800 as the season winds down. “

Deng is one of the girls’ leading point-earners in section meets this season.

“Martha has steadily gotten stronger in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200,” Cramer said. “She won all three races in a section meet with Keystone Oaks.”

One person missing from the track and field program is Gary Cramer, Brentwood’s long-time throwing (and former football) coach who retired from teaching and coaching. Mike Henninger now is coaching the throwing specialists.

“Coach Henninger had some big shoes to fill and he has been awesome,” said Mike Cramer, Gary’s son. “He has coached all three throws for both the middle and high school.”

Senior Steve Bakowski has been the Spartans’ strongest thrower, particularly in the discus and javelin. Senior Nick Milius and junior Zach Dirling are right behind Bakowski in all three throwing events.

“Our numbers were down this year as far as athletes in the program, but the effort wasn’t down,” Cramer said. “The kids have been extremely dedicated and have come to work every day. We have a young team and they love to compete and get better.”

“And Dr. Shortt and I, after a year of failed attempts, have been able to successfully run our new Fully Automated Timing System. So now all our home meets are FAT (run) and the results are online. The meets are scored on the computer, which is also a huge benefit.”

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