Unfettered optimism can be a powerful tool.
It works for Doug Fry, who is in his fourth season leading the University High School boys track and field program.
“I just try to be positive about everything we do,” he said. “I’m enthusiastic. I love the sport and I enjoy coaching high school kids.”
When Fry took the job, he wasn’t entirely sure that would be the case. A successful middle school coach in the East Valley district, the initial lure was the opportunity to coach his sons, Jacob and Matthew.
“I had to stop and ask myself, ‘Can I do this?’ ” he admitted.
Now, he says, he plans to stay at U-Hi to coach the sport for as long as they’ll have him.
The enthusiasm and positive attitude has worked. U-Hi sends 10 individuals, many of them sophomores, into this weekend’s Class 3A regional meet at Spokane Falls Community College.
“I feel really good about all 10 of the athletes we’re taking,” Fry said. “We have several with a real shot at getting to the state meet.”
The program’s best shot at a state medal, however, is staying home – but even that doesn’t dampen the coach’s enthusiasm. Well, not much.
University’s 4x400 relay team is one of the three fastest Class 3A teams in the state this season.
And they’re staying home. The Greater Spokane League is allowed to send two teams into the regional meet against the best teams in the Columbia Basin/Big Nine. The two fastest teams both are from the GSL.
Austin Upmeyer, Austin Flynn, Michael Brunner and Jon Smith turned in a 3:23.79 effort in the GSL meet, behind only the team from state-leading Mt. Spokane (3:21.52) and North Central (3:22.86), which set a school record. The entire Class 4A field finished in the dust – the nearest 4A competitor, Central Valley, was more than four seconds back.
“That’s the saddest part of it all,” Fry said. “There are several slower teams entered in the regional meet, slower by quite a bit to be honest. If we were still Class 4A, we’d be the No. 1 qualifier.”
The Titans ran faster than the state qualifying time, and had that performance come at the regional meet this weekend, it would have been enough to earn them a state meet invitation regardless of state berth limitations.
Still, Fry is excited about his team’s chances regionals.
“The track at Spokane Falls has always been good for us,” he said. “The curve isn’t as tight as it is on some tracks and that’s especially good for hurdlers.”
Hurdles is Fry’s specialty. And even if it weren’t, he’d still pay close attention.
Now a senior, Jacob Fry leads the U-Hi regional contingent after turning in a 40.34-second time in the 300 hurdles at the GSL district meet last week, finishing behind North Central’s Gunnar Swager’s 39.88.
Jacob Fry will run both hurdles and throw the javelin.
“I think Jake has a good shot at qualifying for state in the 300 hurdles,” the proud father said. “He’s worked hard at it and he’s peaking at the right time.”
Sophomore Austin Upmeyer will run two events at regionals, qualifying in both the 200 and 400. His 50.96 time in the 400 is the third-fastest qualifying time in the meet, behind Jack Cerenzia of Mt. Spokane (50.55) and Jake Hoffman of North Central (50.69). If all goes according to form, it should make for an exciting finish.
Smith, a senior, has the third fastest qualifying time in the 800, behind a pair of North Central middle distance runners.
The Titans send a pair of high jumpers to district. Sophomore Andrew Morgan equaled his personal best mark by clearing 6 feet in the district meet. Junior Zach Bruce, a first-time track athlete, also cleared 6-0.
Sophomore pole vaulter Jay Alexander cleared 13-6 to earn a spot in the regional field and senior Pierce Campbell jumped 19-11.5 to qualify in the long jump.
Throwers Colton Harrington and Morelli Failauga both earned a spot in the regionals. A senior, Harrington threw 45-10 to qualify in the shot put. Failauga, a sophomore, threw 136-11 to qualify in the discus.
It’s all about peaking at the right time, the coach explained. And he’s confident his athletes are doing just that.
“I’m always telling my kids that you want your personal best to be the last time, or distance, you turn in,” Fry said. “You want to walk off the track in your last meet knowing you did your absolute best. And in a perfect world, that would be at the state meet with a gold medal.”
With so many sophomores coming through with big performances this season, Fry is justifiably excited about next season.
“It’s always tough with track over the summer because a lot of our kids play football or basketball and the summer is all about those sports, too,” he said. “But we have a group of kids who are willing to do the work and who already are excited about next year.”