Junior Chase Hunt gets stretched out on the rubber bands before practice.
Junior Chase Hunt gets stretched out on the rubber bands before practice.
The temperatures might be frigid outside, but inside the Lakeland Union’s boys’ and girls’ track and field teams were firing it up.

The temperature on Monday morning was below zero with a biting wind, keeping the track teams inside. But those types of temperatures didn’t stop the teams from putting in a lot of work. 

They have a new coach this year — Dan Claussen, who comes in having to replace Coach Kevin Fitzpatrick and his success. 

This will be a new challenge for the Thunderbird track and field teams, but one they are ready for. Claussen has been the assistant the last two years as well as the head coach for 30 years down at Homestead High School down in Milwaukee. 

“(Fitzpatrick) developed a really, really, really, really good program and so it’s kind of nice just stepping in,” said Claussen, who also was Fitzpatrick’s successor this past fall with the LUHS?cross country team. “I have big shoes to fill and I’m excited.”

The first practice was all about getting settled in as a team. A large group of students sat in the gymnasium, awaiting instructions by the coaches as what would exactly happen. There were plenty of water bottles, smiles and laughter to go around. 

This week is like the NFL Combine, according to Claussen. There will numerous activities, testing the athlete’s athletic abilities such as jumping, running and overall quickness. 

“Today and tomorrow we call it pro day,” said Claussen. “It’s really to teach the kids our dynamic warm up that we do every day and then we’re testing them at different stations.”

This will be tested through events such as the 40-yard dash, bench press and vertical jump, events that are used by the NFL Combine to scout elite college players.

Before any combine events started, the teams got loose and stretched out through a series of dynamic warm-ups. 

There were five stations with groups consisting of eight members. The five stations were rubber bands, core, jump rope, shuttles and medicine balls. After a certain amount of time, each group rotated until they did every station twice. 

Once they were completed, the athletes were ready to go for their combine events. 

“Hopefully Wednesday the weather creeps up a little bit,” said Claussen. “We’re gone for spring break and when we come back hopefully it’s in the thirties.”

As temperatures eventually rise, look for the Thunderbird track and field teams to light up the track. 

The T-Birds’ first meet will be a home indoor invite Tuesday, March 19 at the LUHS fieldhouse.

Brett LaBore may be reached at brett@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.