Even the most optimistic of high school track and field enthusiasts would have to admit that a program that includes 150 athletes is rare.
But that many runners showed up on the first day of practice at Lake Braddock High for the cross country season last fall, and nearly all have remained with the track program.
What has caused this phenomenal interest in which is normally considered a minor sport is multi-faceted. But one factor that a majority of the team believes is responsible is the turnover of the entire track coaching staff at the 11-year-old Burke, Va., school.
When Andy Tisinger and Marshall Windsor tranfered from Fort Hunt to coach at Lake Braddock, they hardly could have imagined that only two seasons later, the program would have become as filled with talent as it is large.
Success is nothing new for the veteran coaches, whose achievements at Fort Hunt were spectacular. And the two couldn't ask for much more as the team prepares for the Virginia AAA state indoor track and field championship Saturday at George Mason.
The field events are scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m. with the shot put. The running events should start at 9:30 with the trials of the 55-meter hurdles.
The top five individuals in the regional meet held last week, along with any athlete that has surpassed state meet qualifying standards, are eligible for the state meet.
At the end of the 1984 spring track season, former Lake Braddock Coach Chris McDonald retired from coaching. Partially because declining enrollment was threatening the existence of Fort Hunt at that time, Tisinger and Windsor grabbed the opportunity to coach an already well-established program like Lake Braddock's.
At Fort Hunt, Tisinger was head coach of the program for 13 years. As girls coach, he never lost a district title in cross country, indoor or spring track.
Windsor spent four of his 16 years there as the Federals' assistant coach. And as head coach of the boys, he won 11 of a possible 12 district titles.
So if one wonders why the students at Lake Braddock got excited about the acquisition of Tisinger and Windsor -- and their two assistants, Pete Bendorf (a jumping specialist) and Scott Thomasson. -- all you need to do is ask them.
"Everyone got so excited when they heard Coach Tisinger was coming," said junior Roger Boone, one of four captains for the boys team and a top long and triple jumper, sprinter and hurdler in the Northern District. "They (the team members) all knew how much better it was going to be so they came out and gave it a shot."
"They sent letters to every person in the school asking them to come out for track," said senior Chris Cecka, also a captain and a top long and triple jumper. "The coaches got a lot of people out for the team and they keep them enthusiastic."
"Coach Tisinger is a team coach," explained sophomore Adria Hicks, one of the district's best long and high jumpers and 300-meter sprinters, and a member of both of the Bruins' district-winning relay teams. "He gives us good spirit and there's a lot of spirit with us."
"I think it's because he (Tisinger) is a new coach here and he doesn't know who all the good people are or the bad people are so he looks at everybody the same," said Hicks' twin sister April, who runs the 500 and the 1,600-meter relay.
With four coaches this year instead of two, the athletes are given more personalized training, including 6 a.m. technique workouts three mornings a week for the field events people and the hurdlers.
"It's a different type of training," Cecka said. "Last year, we had coaches that cared but they really couldn't do that much because there was only two of them. This year, it so much better because there are four coaches and they can watch us more.
"Windsor almost is always serious, Bendorf is almost joking around and trying to get people to laugh, and Tisinger is right in the middle of all of that. And I don't know too much about Thomasson because I don't work out much with the weight people.
"They all blend in very well. You know just who to be around at the right times."
Another reason the girls captured the district and regional meets and the boys won the district meet and were runners-up in the region is the support from the sheer numbers in the program. Most programs would be happy to retain 75 athletes, like the Bruins' program last year, but this year they have twice as many athletes. Even more encouraging, two-thirds of the athletes are freshmen and sophomores.
"Just having the bodies out there helps," said senior Kristi Cassell, the No. 1 girl on a cross country team that drew respect last fall when more than 100 members attended every meet to watch the dozen or so runners on the varsity team.
"You don't usually hear people yelling for the jumpers," Cecka said. "Afterwards, they (team members) usually come up to you and say, 'Good jump,' but in the districts this year, it was great, coming down the runway and hearing all the screaming. It's really motivating."
Mike Anthony, a junior who is the best middle-distance runner in the region, said a contributing factor in the team's better performances this year is that it has remained healthy.
"There were a lot of injuries last year," he said. "I broke my ankle, another guy broke his foot, and another guy had a torn hamstring. We had a lot of young kids last year, and everyone who was injured last year has run what they are capable of this year."