McMURRAY – As last season wore on, Ringgold High School track coach Jennifer McMichael watched some of her runners wear out.
“We saw some fatigue late last season,” McMichael remembered. “As coaches, we had to re-evaluate and adjust to make our training plan better.”
With McMichael, who also is the Rams’ cross country coach, rethinking how and what to do has made all the difference, especially for junior Jake Gorman and sophomore Lucas Pajak.
The two underclassmen have dominated running events for Ringgold this season. Gorman, who is also a soccer player, runs the 200- and 400-meter dashes, the 1,600 relay and has dabbled in the 100 dash. Pajak, a cross country runner, specializes in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
Both are firmly planted in the middle of the Class 3A performance lists that were reported and released on the WPIAL website April 22. More schools will add updated information between now and the WPIAL Individual Track & Field Championships May 16 at Slippery Rock University.
Gorman and Pajak will try to better their numbers in the Scott Frederick Mid Mon Track Classic today at Charleroi High School. The event was moved Myron Pottios Stadium this year with track renovations being done at Ringgold’s Joe Montana Stadium. Nine teams – Belle Vernon, Bentworth, Beth-Center, Brownsville, California, Charleroi, Elizabeth Forward, Monessen and Ringgold – will participate in the meet, which is scheduled to start field events at noon and track events at 12:30 p.m.
“We are all rivals but at the same time we are one big Mon Valley family,” McMichael said. “Scott started the meet for all the Mid-Mon athletes.”
That won’t take the competitive instincts out of Pajak, who is coming off a strong performance in Saturday’s Washington-Greene County Coaches’ Track & Field Championships. Pajak won gold in the 3,200-meter run (10:13.01) and finished second in the 1,600 (4:37.81).
“My two-mile time from last year to this year is about 50 seconds better,” Pajak said. “It’s just having the motivation to win. I don’t care who I’m facing. I just want to beat them.”
Pajak’s youthful exuberance as a sophomore has paved a way for a strong season.
“He is a force to be reckoned with,” McMichael said. “He came in as a freshman and would try to run times with the top varsity runners. I had to remind him that he was a freshman and had to prove he could race at those times before doing workout times like that. He goes after it. He lines up and doesn’t care who he is up against. He could go against the best in the state and think he can win. That’s something you can’t coach.”
Gorman won gold in the 400 (52.08) and fifth in the 200 in the county coaches’ meet. He qualified for the WPIAL championships in both events last season.
“He came into his own last year,” McMichael said about Gorman. “He is phenomenal, tough, focused and has a great work ethic. He is phenomenal in the 400.”
The one-lap race fits Gorman’s strength of hitting and holding his top speed.
“The 400 is a really different race,” Gorman said. “People don’t understand how tiring it can really be. What can seperate a good runner from a bad one is the final 100. I don’t have the strongest start. I don’t have the strongest legs. But once I get up to my top speed I can keep that going.”