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By Al Stilley
Senior staff writer
When distance runner Charlie Moffitt was a freshman at Lutheran High School, he could count his teammates – boys and girls – on both hands.
Now he sees 29 male teammates and 14 females at practices at the school’s new stadium, which features an artificial turf football field and a new synthetic surface track.
“I’m very happy with this,” said Moffitt, one of four seniors on the squads. “We have had our first track meets at home in three years; I had only one meet here as a freshman. The track was horrible and helped cause painful shin splints and sore ankles.”
Replacing the football field and track plus expanding grandstand seating and an enlarged press box have brought other athletes from the hallways onto the track. The 43 athletes represent around 17 percent of the school’s enrollment.
With every meet on the road for most of his career, Moffitt deplored getting home after 10 p.m. from weeknight meets.
“We have a lot of young runners in the program who have a strong future,” said Moffitt, who is hopeful of qualifying for the state finals in Bloomington. “We have attracted athletes who play other sports in the fall and winter.”
Moffitt, a regional qualifier last year, All-State football player and state finalist discus thrower Emeka Julani, sprinter/high jumper Erin Pasch and mid-distance runner Janessa Schaeffer are the only seniors. Pasch qualified for the 400-meter dash regional race on her fifth-place time at the talent-loaded Warren Central sectional. Sophomore Claire Tabit broke the school shot put record with a throw of 32 feet, 8 1/2 inches.
Pasch was instrumental in talking her dad, Lutheran dean of students Dave Pasch, into coaching track. She told him that if he didn’t coach she would quit. Since that conversation the track program has grown exponentially in numbers and success.
Mr. Pasch simply calls it a continuation of the school’s commitment to excellence in the classroom, all sports and extracurricular activities.
The Saints have enough male athletes to compete in all individual events and relays in dual and multiple-team events.
Lutheran’s boys team won each of the three multiple-team meets at home against a total of 13 teams. Moffitt, sophomore hurdler Noah Brandt and sophomore Marcus McFadden were double winners, and Erin Pasch was a triple winner in leading the girls to the Saints Invitational championship.
“I couldn’t imagine building a track and field program without a facility like this and having to go on the road for every meet,” coach Pasch said. “When you have great facilities you’re going to work hard to use the gifts that you are given, and I see a lot of kids benefitting from that. We’re not done with facilities and the growth of our school. We feel like we are going to continue to improve in every facet here.”
Eventually, Pasch would like to see a junior track program.
“Everything boils down to development and experience,” he said. “This is a sport that takes work, a lot of self-discipline, and it’s not always fun, but when kids have success it makes it a lot easier to come back the next day and fight through the soreness.”
Pasch and his assistant coaches have their athletes training in the weight room and working on speed and agility. “What we do in track translates to what the athletes can do in other sports,” he emphasized. “All the sports are important.”
Pasch praised his assistant coaches: Ronnie Robson, distance runners; Kyle Brockett, mid-distance, high jump and long jump; strength coach Shane Wyant, throws; Jordan Crosby, hurdles, sprints; and A.J. Burgstedt, the only female coach on staff. Robson is training for the 2019 Boston Marathon.
The Saints are preparing for several dual meets plus the conference meet May 4 and Marion County championships May 8 (girls) and 9 (boys).