The La Cañada High track and field coaches set up shop on the school's track a month before the spring season this year, hoping to get the team's incoming underclassmen started off on the right foot.
"[Girls' Coach] Casey Mollett was out here getting kids geared up and getting them going," said Spartans boys' Coach Steve Zimmerman, who has been with the program for seven years. "I think that will improve our results this year."
Each year, La Cañada sends about 10 to 20 athletes to CIF Southern Section Division III competition.
"We actually might do a little bit better this year," said Zimmerman, hopeful the head start will keep the Spartans ahead of the competition.
The challenge for Zimmerman and Mollett is training a surplus of young athletes to make an immediate impact year in and year out.
"At La Cañada, they don't really run track their senior year, and some of them drop out their junior year," Zimmerman said. "We're primarily a freshmen, sophomore group with a few juniors…We're looking to finish second or third in league this year. [South Pasadena] just has a year-round program and they are the force to be reckoned with."
Zimmerman guesses the Spartans haven't bested the Tigers in six years. It's been even longer since they've won a Rio Hondo League championship. The boys' track and field team haven't won a league crown for nine years, and it's been an 18-year drought for the girls.
"It'd be great if we could sneak up from behind and knock [South Pasadena] off, that's always our goal," Zimmerman said.
The high jump, distance and long and triple jump groups figure to be the strengths of the boys' squad this year. There is a new batch of sprinters, hurdlers and shot-putters that Zimmerman hopes to build up and improve this season as well.
Seniors Cameron Meeker (long jump), Jeff Barker (pole vault) and juniors Joseph Tran and Aiden Park (high jump) are all expected to make a splash in their respective events.
On the girls' side, Mollett expects senior Courtney Schulte to help La Cañada find success in the 400 meters. Sophomore Eliza Bentz should have strong showings in the high jump and junior Robin Miketta, who also happens to be Miss La Cañada Flintridge, should lead the Spartans in the high and low hurdles.
Mollett said he's ramped up the workouts this season to get his young group in shape early, which will hopefully pay off in the long run.
"We're just sort of building up the program," Mollett said. "I think we have a very strong, young group — actually probably stronger than we've had in awhile."
The challenge will be keeping them around for the years to come.