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Not so fast; To those who believe it's all pure speed, even the quickest sprinters will tell you...

Byline: John Conceison

Of course there's no substitute for speed in track, especially among sprinters. They tested well in those gym class 50-yard dashes; they didn't lag behind in the shuttle runs.

"Most of these kids are very competitive," Westboro High boys' track coach Roger Anderson said. "You have these kids who have won at tag in the neighborhood, kids who have won races and been the fastest kids in town.

"When runners are standing at the blocks, they can have the same ability."

So what separates the winners from the rest?

"For sprinters to progress, there's weight training and working on technique in the blocks and being mentally tough," Anderson said. "These races are short, but there's still a lot of opportunity to make mistakes."

Mental toughness helped Westboro senior Ryan Ruffing remain persistent last June when he won the 100-meter dash at the All-State Meet at Durfee High in Fall River. "He was third through the first 95 meters," Anderson said. "For him to be that patient and calm takes a lot of mental discipline. He transitioned from the first few strides and just didn't panic."

Ruffing, who now plays soccer on scholarship at George Washington University, captured district and state titles in only his second season running track. "He made mistakes along with way and learned from them," Anderson said.

In events that can be over within a dozen seconds, technique plays a key role. "I like to have our kids work on form and the angles of the body," Shrewsbury High boys' coach Ian Butterfield said. "Getting the knees up, the toes up, the hands up, moving the arms in a forward-backward motion. All the different mechanics have to be working."

Like Anderson, Butterfield coaches soccer players who make the proper adjustments to progress. "Soccer players tend to keep their hands down as a force of habit to avoid touching the ball," Butterfield noted. "They need to swing those arms back and forth. They need those suckers."

Doherty High girls' coach James Murphy agreed. "The most important thing is coordination, the arm coordination," said Murphy, who coaches T&G Super Teamer Hannah Janeczak. "When runners are coming across their bodies with their arms, that's wasted energy.

"Of course, natural speed is what you need. It's hard to teach speed."

"There's natural ability, followed by working on strength, and then maximizing their stride length - putting them up and putting them down," Doherty High boys' coach Wendy Fenner said.

"There's the traditional form, but then you see different sprinters," added Fenner, a former standout sprinter at Chelmsford High and UMass. "Take Usain Bolt, the Jamaican gold medalist at the Olympics. He's nonconventional, breaks all the rules, but that's what works for him."

Fenner said there's so much more involved in training than when she starred in the 1980s. "Now there's so much more - polymetrics, bounding drills, strength training, resistance training with rubber bands and parachutes. It's all so important now."

Confidence also can make the difference. "You work on not being intimidated," Fenner said. "You enter with a tempered cockiness, which is good. You don't say, but show, how good you are.

"For me, it was always about how far I could push myself, how fast can I go. If you take care of yourself, everything else will fall into place."

THE SPRINTER

T&G Super Teamer Hannah Janeczak, a record-setting Doherty High junior, is the two-time defending Central Mass. champion in the 100 meters and won the state title two years ago. She's coming off an indoor season in which she won the Central Mass. 55-meter title for the third straight time and placed second in the All-State Meet and New Englands. Here, Janeczak describes her winning form, step by step:

NAME: DOHERTY HIGH SCHOOL

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) "You have to stay really relaxed and make sure the blocks are right. You have to get your hands in a certain position so they're even with your shoulders." (2) "For me, I lean forward because it helps you get out of the blocks faster." (3) "When you come out of the blocks, you have to stay really low, and then you have to straighten yourself out..." (4) "...and keep accelerating, going the hardest you can all the way." (5) "You can't let up in the middle of the race. I go my hardest the whole way and not let anyone beat me." (6) "You have to work on going harder, moving your arms back and forth really hard." (7) "At the finish, you just have to lean, and it's all technique. About a foot away, you start leaning." (8) "Don't lean too early, or you might fall. The right lean helps you improve your time." (9) "The finish is so important. All year during indoors, I would win because of my finish." (10) Doherty's Hannah Janeczak is all smiles on the medal platform after finishing second in the 55 meters - losing by less than one-thousand of a second - at the state indoor meet at the Reggie Lewis Center.

PHOTOG: CHRIS CHRISTO PHOTOS
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 13, 2009
Words:845
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