The Track Cult of South Spirit

Photo by John Sangiolo

By Emily Bulczynski and Hannah Fraser
Sports Reporters

Used to seeing boys wear their royal blue and bright orange track & field sweatshirts on almost any given day at South? With a girls team of over eighty members and a boys’ team of about seventy this indoor season, the track and field teams are the largest of any athletic teams at Newton South, and are also among the largest track teams in the Dual County League and across the state.

The boys’ blue and orange track sweatshirt is just one example of the apparel that the boys order each year to show their team pride.

Senior captain Dan Epstein noted that the apparel helps the team come together and build as one unit by looking like a team.

“Our motto is ‘look fast, feel fast, run fast,’” said Epstein. “That usually means every season we order new apparel so that the whole team can dress together and look good.”

In addition to the team apparel, the boys team has created a tradition of wearing a button up shirt and a tie in school on every single meet day. Senior Adin Henderson added that this is another way to bring the team together before competition.

“[Shirt and tie spirit] ties everyone into a larger group,” said Henderson. “Even people who aren’t running in races still wear the shirt and tie, and that shows more unity throughout the team.”

Not only do the boys show spirit at school, but they also display their love and respect for the team during meets. Senior captain Gal Fudim has noticed throughout his years on the team that his teammates are all very supportive of their athletes at meets.

“We always have guys on the sidelines cheering and we’re a very connected team,” said Fudim. “I think there’s a lot of support for each other.”

Although races can be a physical and mental challenge, Epstein emphasized the importance of supporting each other through tough races, even though track is considered an individual sport.

“Racing can be difficult, so when we all come together and help those guys that are racing it makes it a lot easier for them,” Epstein said.

Fudim added that one thing that sets Newton South apart from the other track teams is their encouragement for runners on other teams.

“Even if we don’t know guys we always cheer for them,” said Fudim.

South’s team spirit has not gone unnoticed to the other teams. Senior runner Colin Grip, a member of Acton Boxboro’s track & field team, admires Newton South for being one of the most spirited teams in the Dual County League.

“No other teams get down on the track and cheer as much as [the Newton South] guys do, and it can be intimidating at times,” said Grip. “I’ve noticed that I get as much support from [South’s] team as I do from mine on the side of the track.”

This mutual respect among South and other teams is a result of the team and school pride that is instilled in every member of the team. Henderson has noticed that the team places a lot of emphasis on representing Newton South in a positive light.

“[We] all have a sense of school pride and [we] want to go represent south,” said Henderson. “I know we talk about representing South a lot.”

For the track team, this team spirit starts from the top down, coming from a strong example set by the captains. As a captain, Fudim says that he tries to be a role model for the rest of the team in the manner in which he represents South.

“Part of the way we show ourselves and the way we represent South is by being focused, paying attention, and just being a team that we want other teams to respect,” he said.

Compared to other sports at South, track & field is a unique one because the competitive aspect of it, running, is individual. But, the athletes are tied together by the goal to place well individually in order to score points for the entire team.

For Fudim, his races have become defined by what he can do to help the team as opposed to worrying more about his individual times.

“It’s about doing everything you can for the team,” said Fudim. “So I think that gives everyone a bigger sense of purpose than on a [traditional] team sport, where you can always get subbed out or something like that.”

Another result of the team’s spirit is an undeniable sense of community. On a team in which all the athletes push each other to run, workout, and train hard together each day, its members are bound to bond as they work together and support each other. Some of the closest friendships form in this way, and both the boys’ and girls’ teams regularly have team dinners together on Friday nights as a way to have fun and grow closer outside of practices and meets.

These friendships make it evident that the track & field team is a social group of its own within South. To outsiders this tight knit group and regular friday night dinners can sometimes be seen as “culty”. To senior David Flynn, a new member of the team this year, the track team is a lot different once you are a part of it.

“I think before I joined, I kind of saw track as a cult type thing,” said Flynn. “But that’s changed a lot since I’ve joined, and a lot of the people that I’ve seen in groups in the library, or I see walking around the school- I’m a part of that now.”

Another insight that Flynn added as a newcomer to the sport is that he feels that track is often overlooked as people underestimate the difficulty of the sport.

“I think track is a lot of fun and there’s a good balance between fun and work,” said Flynn. “Compared to other sports teams at South, track is one that’s really overlooked, but there’s a lot of really hard workers.”

Flynn added that he thinks the strong sense of team unity and commitment has helped the team create strong, hard working individuals.

“You want to contribute a lot more and you want to find some concrete reward for your work,” said Flynn. “I think that placing in a race or just backing someone up or supporting someone in a hard race can really help with that. It makes me feel a lot more part of the team and also motivates me to really push myself.”

Lastly, a unique aspect of track and field is that the divisions between athletes, whether it be between varsity and junior varsity, or freshman and senior, are not as clear cut. The entire team, regardless of level, congregates for meetings before practices and meets, and all the members come together to support each other at the meets.

Epstein made it clear that the team makes a conscience effort to be inclusive and make everyone feel a part of a bigger goal.

“I think we try really hard to make sure that every single member of the team feels like they are part of the same team,” said Epstein. “Whether you are the lowest on JV or the highest on varsity, we want to make sure everyone feels the same team bonding aspect.”