Scappoose Coach Dennis Olstedt says the focus is on learning the basics and avoiding injuries

COURTESY PHOTO: JOSI WELTER - Student athletes practice at the Scappoose High School field before the track and field season.At Scappoose High School, this year's track and field team is short on upperclassmen.

Spring sports have had the longest gap between seasons due to the pandemic. Fall sports had a full season in the 2019-20 school year, and most winter sports made it through championships.

Spring sports didn't have any season that year, so for track and field, the last meet was state in spring 2019.

"Last year, we were supposed to have a large group of seniors, and that senior group could have led everything," said Dennis Olstedt, Scappoose's head coach for track and field.

He added, "This year, it's the exact opposite. We have a small group of seniors, and a large group of underclassmen."

Olstedt said that with the shortened season and barely any time between the official start of the season and the first meet, his focus has been on preventing injuries. Many track and field athletes just came off fall sports like soccer and football, meaning they had virtually no rest between sports seasons.

At the season's first meet, the boys team won by 7 points and the girls team lost by 10 points.

Olstedt said he believes the girls team could have won the meet if he had put some athletes in more events. Most of the girls only participated in two events, in an effort to avoid injuries and help new team members learn the basics of how a meet works.

"It's just trying to get them used to a high school track meet, so what's the schedule, when to warm up, what it looks like," Olstedt explained.

"Right now, the biggest thing is not about winning, it's about getting the experience for the younger kids," he added.

Athletes who competed in spring 2019 as sophomores are now seniors, but after missing a season, fewer are returning to compete as seniors.COURTESY PHOTO: JOSI WELTER - Student athletes prepare for the track and field season.

"But this year, I think a lot of seniors are really just concentrating on graduating, and focusing on their primary sports, which you know, track and field sometimes isn't somebody's primary sport," Olstedt said.

Olstedt said he's heard from coaches at other schools who are in the same position, focused on rebuilding a team.

Two-sport student athletes weren't the only ones impacted by the condensed schedule. Many of the coaches are involved with multiple sports, but they weren't available to assist at the beginning of the season.

Kevin Pinkstaff, the head coach for cross country, and Sean McNabb, head coach for football, were both finishing up fall sports when track and field began.

Olstedt said the first week of the season "was pretty exhausting for me," even with assistance from volunteer coaches.

"I have a handful of sophomore and freshman girls who have really kind of stepped up in their events, and everyone's really having a great attitude, positive attitude about being thrown into varsity meets," Olstedt said.

This season's young team will hopefully pay off in the coming years.

"We definitely will have a bunch of returners with a lot of experience next year," Olstedt said. "But right now, all I'm worried about is making sure these kids are healthy, safe and just getting the experience. After that, winning is definitely just secondary for this year."

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.