Five years ago, the school districts of Clymer, Sherman and Panama decided to join forces and create a merged track and field program. The coaches, the athletes, and the communities all came together as one and dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack.” They’ve been competing and winning meets ever since.
At the head of the Wolfpack is Coach Irv King, who is currently in his sixth year of coaching track and field. He’s led his boys through the sport’s regular season – with their record currently standing at 2-1 in the league, 3-2 overall – and is now gearing up to take the Wolfpack to counties, sectionals, and beyond. Today, he sat down with the Jamestown Gazette to discuss the benefits of coaching a merged team, breaking through mental barriers, and why he can’t name his team’s strongest event.
Cortney: What is it like coaching a team comprised of athletes from three separate schools?
Coach King: As far as competition goes and how the kids get along, that’s been fantastic. They all get along great. Busing is what really becomes the hard part. A majority of the time, everyone buses to Clymer each night for practice. When the weather’s bad, sometimes we’ll bus to Panama to use their pool or weight room. We kind of bounce from school to school.
One of the great things, though, is that we basically get everyone’s coaching staff. We have two Panama coaches, two Clymer coaches, and one coach hired by Sherman all on staff. I may be deemed the head coach, but I work primarily with the distance runners. Then we also have a jumping coach, a throwing coach, a sprint coach. We each come from our own areas of expertise, and that’s terrific – it means the kids get well-coached and get a lot of attention.
Cortney: The mascot for Clymer/Sherman/Panama athletic teams is the Wolfpack. Where did that come from?
Coach King: That came about two or three years ago. The three schools got together and the students and parents voted on one unified name. They picked the Wolfpack. It kind of became an emblem for us – a pack of wolves.
Cortney: What are your team’s strongest events this year?
Coach King: Oh, that’s hard to say. I mean, our last meet, we had one guy that won two events and we won 14 events for the night overall. So we’re very deep across the board. We also have Justin Svetz, who went all the way to states last year for the heptathlon, but he’s been hurt. He’s just starting to practice now and we haven’t even really used him yet… Really, we’re just a well-rounded team. We’re strong across the board and that’s been one of our biggest advantages.
Cortney: How do you help athletes break through the mental “wall” that’s often present in track and field events?
Coach King: I think if you’re a competitor, you will find a way to break through that on your own. We find that the big invitationals – when there’s a lot of competition – just have a way of breaking those barriers. All of a sudden, the kids are running faster than they ever have and realizing that they can do it. Then that performance becomes something they can turn around and duplicate. So I would say that in competition is where we tend to find walls being broken.
Cortney: With the end of the regular season in sight, what are your goals for the team?
Coach King: Well, obviously there’s a regular season league champion and at the county meet we’ll compete against our league teams. We’re looking forward to that because Maple Grove beat us by five points in the league, so we’re hoping to compete well on that day and turn the tables around. And, of course, we work hard all year to get as many kids as possible to qualify for sectionals. So we’re looking to have a nice size group to go out there, too.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.