Young team grows, begins its second season

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Coaches and members of the Dorchester Vikings Youth Track and Field Team gathered for a photo after practice on Saturday. The athletes are in grades 3-9 and are from throughout the county.

CAMBRIDGE — Kids are lazy on the weekends, right?

Not all of them.

Every Saturday morning, starting at 8:30 a.m., close to 40 athletes, in grades 3-9, gather to learn the basics — and a few of the fine points — of running, jumping and throwing. They are the members of the Dorchester Vikings Youth Track and Field Team, a club that practices either at the Glasgow Tennis Courts, with the permission of the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks, or at Bay Country Racquet Club on Leonards Lane.

The team got its start last winter, after Mace’s Lane Middle School teacher and Pop Warner coach Derek Coleman saw a need for a program based on health, fitness, and preparation for not only high school cross country and track and field team, but also other sports. The track events, with their running, combined with the work that goes into long jump and shot put, mean that the young athletes get a good, tough workout with skills that can be transferred to successful performance in other sports.

“We want to show the kids the value of discipline and hard work,” Coach Coleman said. “We’re getting them ready for our first meet of the season a month from now, but also getting them in shape for any other sport they want to do.”

Coach Coleman is assisted by his brother Jordan, a teacher at Maple Elementary School; and Dr. Eric Widmaier, whose son Ryan is on the team.
Kenny Manokey, who sometimes helps as well, brings his sons Christian Dockins and Koran Humphries, and his nephew Jayden Smith. “It helps with their speed and agility,” Mr. Manokey said, as the boys and girls worked their way through a series a drills. “It helps them overall become better athletes.”

A typical practice starts with an easy jog to warm up, followed by stretches. Then come drills focusing on starts in the sprints, footwork agility, relay hand offs, shot put and discus throwing.

“It keeps me in shape, really,” North Dorchester High School freshman Ali Todd said as she cooled off after practice. Ali took part in the team’s first season last year, and went on to be one of the top cross country runners in the region.

The emphasis on physical training helps rouse parents on Saturday morning, too.

“I think it’s important for him for any other sport,” Aris Reyes said of his son Manny’s training with the Vikings. “His body is developing.”

Mr. Reyes also noted the importance of fitness for classroom success as well, saying, “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”

In January, the team will take its show on the road, for a few meets at the Prince George’s County Athletic Complex. The experience, the confidence gained and the increased strength and speed are appreciated by the parents who bring their children to train.

“They need this so much right now,” Mr. Manokey said.