East Aurora now has a running program for all seasons.
The Blue Devils are positively giddy about their merger with Holland but not because it provides an avenue to help their strong runners become even better for outdoor track season and cross country in the fall.
Holland/East Aurora Track is about providing opportunities that did not previously exist for East Aurora athletes during the long cold winter. While Holland has had an indoor track team for about a decade, East Aurora had been trying to get approval from its school district for years to add the sport.
"This has been a great opportunity for East Aurora kids to participate in track and field, especially given that there aren't many opportunities for girls (to play sports) in the winter," said boys team coach Walt McLaughlin, who also heads East Aurora's cross country and outdoor track teams.
So far, Holland and East Aurora joining forces to form Holland/East Aurora Track (HEAT for short) has been super – especially in the distance events since there's no shortage of talented runners at either school.
Those who have met state qualifying standards include 4x800 girls relay members Riley Jones, sisters Molly and Megan McLaughlin and either Ava Danieu, Maggie McLaughlin or Caitlin Caltagirone. They have the top time in Western New York. Jones and Molly McLaughlin are both heading to nearby Edinboro for college. Individuals who have hit state-qualifying meet standard include Molly McLaughlin (1,000), Megan McLaughlin (3,000) and Riley Jones (3,000). Jones and McLaughlin rank 1-2 in the 3,000.
The boys 4x800 relay of Ian Russ, Parker Tent, Jack Watson and either John Lyons or Grady Regan also has met the state-qualifying standard. Russ also has hit the 1,600 and 3,200.
"We've got some good kids," Walt McLaughlin said. "There's good competition so it makes everyone that much better. … We're really happy to be with Holland. We're the HEAT and we're really proud to be with those kids and have the opportunity to train with them."
How do the teams make it work?
Walt McLaughlin is head coach of the boys team and assisted Holland's Scott Hunt. Matt Adams is head coach of the girls team assisted by Marty McLaughlin.
Since the team consists of more than 70 athletes, one sight just isn't conducive for practice. So, the sprinters and field event athletes work out at Holland. Distance event runners practice at East Aurora. The schools are roughly 10 miles apart. Once a week, the team gathers at the same school for team-building exercises and to discuss strategy.
While there are more than 70 athletes on the team, Holland/EA's roster still pales in comparison to larger schools like Lancaster and Frontier.
While East Aurora has been trying to add indoor track for years, the potential opening presented itself about three years ago. It began with Adams reaching out to McLaughlin and the two just talking. Then Adams reached out to his EA counterpart Matt Librock to gauge his interest. East Aurora was interested. Since the two schools already had merged teams (football, golf, wrestling, cheerleading) in place, it made sense for them to form another partnership.
"It just kind of seemed like a no-brainer because we were sharing some services," Adams said. "It just made sense to go that way."