VALPARAISO | When winning dual meets is nearly impossible, all you have is fun — and each other.
Liz Masson and Jude Connelly are Washington Township girls track — the whole team. So enjoyment and self-improvement are the prime goals when all they have is one another.
“If you can’t have fun, what’s the point?” said Connelly, sounding existential while wearing a bright yellow shirt bearing the words “Oompa Loompa."
Their coach, Greg Simms, couldn’t agree more.
“We got to try to make running fun, because sometimes it just sucks,” he said, reiterating the thoughts of many weekend warrior runners across the region.
The two Senators combine for all the individual running events. Connelly is the sprinter, competing in the 100-meter, 200 and 400 as a sophomore, while Masson sticks to distance in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. It’s not easy for Masson since there’s only one event between the 800 and 3,200 with Connelly running the 200, but they make it work.
Once in a while they will also attempt a field event to make sure the “team” points in an extra event or two, but it’s rare since those non-running events aren’t exactly their favorites.
“I’ve tried jumping and it doesn’t work,” Masson joked. “I just can’t jump.”
And that’s why she’s stuck with only one other non-running sport. In the fall she runs cross country and track in the spring, and also competes in soccer in the fall, which consists of lots of running. She tried basketball as a freshman and sophomore, but hasn’t played the last two years.
Needless to say, Masson and Connelly get along well. They kind of have to, right? And when it comes to practicing, they have the boys team to keep them company.
“She has her guys she runs with and I work with the sprinter guys,” Connelly said.
Besides running, Masson’s other love is math. She will attend Ball State University hoping to major in Actuary Science, which involves statistics and probability. So the senior knows that her improvement in the mile run puts her in a good position to accomplish something she hasn’t done in either cross country or track.
“I’m feeling pretty good about getting out of sectionals,” she said.
That’s because the math says so. Her time at the beginning of this season in the 1,600 was 30 seconds better than last season, and it’s gradually improved.
“That’s spooky,” Simms said about the 30-second bump. “Her times are so much more improved than last season.”
Washington Township assistant, Seth Wilk, specializes in distance running and he loves Masson’s outlook.
“It’s all about having the right attitude,” he said. “If it’s not there, kids complain about shin splints and their legs hurting, but she never complains. It’s tough with just two girls on the team, but they still compete.”
And have fun. In fact, Masson and Connelly hope to get a lenient official in an upcoming meet to allow them to compete in a relay, though the points would not count.
“I think it would be fun,” Connelly said. “People wouldn’t believe two girls running in the 4-by-400 relay. And if we won, that would be awesome.”
Connelly has an additional goal besides improving her times and trying to advance in the postseason. She’s looking ahead to next year already.
“I think we’ll have three times as many (girls) on the team,” she said. “We have some good eighth graders and I’m going to try to get some of my friends to join the team. We’ll definitely have more than two.”
That means Connelly could run in a relay that counts.