Local Sports

Tigers track is more than a team

By Calli Newberry

Track and field is a unique sport that, on its own, already lends itself to building strong, family-like relationships. Between the miles run on the track and the hours spent in the weight room, training can be tough and competing can be mentally tougher, leaving athletes to rely on their teammates. 

For the Armada High School team, however, the family-like culture is taken to an entirely new level. 

Of the 45 kids on its roster, 14 of them make up seven pairs of siblings, four of which are twins. And if you ask any of them, they’d all say they like having their brother or sister on the team. 

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Kimberly Brown (9), Emily Brown (9), Katie Carrigan (10), John Carrigan (10), Claire Snesiak (9), Andrew Snesiak (11), Alayna Nowik (11), Mikayla Nowik (12), Joseph Bommarito (12), Giovanni Bommarito (12), Owen Brinker (9), Kevin Brinker (9), Brooklyn Khon (9), and Camden Khon (11)

“I think we get along better than [most siblings]. I think we have a connection through basketball and track that not a lot of other siblings get to experience,” Andrew Sniesak said about his younger sister, Claire. “I was so excited to be able to do a co-ed sport with her.”

Claire is a freshman while Andrew is a junior. They each played varsity basketball this winter and are now competing as sprinters and long jumpers on the track team. As the younger sister, Claire often hears Andrew correcting and coaching her from afar, but she said she doesn’t mind – most days.

“When I see her on the other side of the track I always like to cheer her on and make sure that she’s swinging those arms and pumping her knees and doing whatever she needs to do,” Andrew said. 

“It depends on the day, most of the time I like that he holds me accountable. I feel like we can do that for each other in track and basketball. If one person goes out and is working, it motivates the other to go out and do it,” Claire said. “I think it’s a good motivation to have an older brother like Andrew. It’s really fun.” 

The motivation that comes from competing with – and even against – a sibling is a unique and strong form. Just ask Kevin and Owen Brinker, freshman sprinters on the team. 

“When I’m in the same heat as [Kevin] in the 100-meter or 200-meter, I’ll glance over to the lane that he’s in and [I think], ‘Oh gosh, he’s a little in front of me,’ so it’s motivation to run faster. It’s a competition,” Owen said. 

“For the past few meets we’ve run the exact same events,” Kevin said. “I like it. It gives me motivation.” 

This kind of competition can even extend outside of meets and practice, according to sophomore John Carrigan and his twin sister Katie.

“Yes sometimes we do [get competitive],” Katie said. 

“We race to the car or something,” John said. “But we always try to encourage each other and cheer ourselves on at meets and practice.” 

John and Katie are both sprinters, while John also does pole vault and Katie hurdles. And next year, another Carrigan will join the distance team

“We’ll have another brother on the team next year. His name is Robbie,” John said. “He’ll do long distance, he’s crazy.”

Speaking of long distance siblings, Camden and Brooklyn Khon already proved their strength as distance runners in the fall when they each won an individual regional title in cross country. This spring, they’ve continued to excel on the track, part of which they’d credit to each other – something Camden, a junior, never expected from his freshman sister.

“Honestly, I didn’t even think she was going to run. She hated it. But she’s better than I ever was as a freshman,” Camden said. “I like running with my sister. If she gets a good time, I want to do the same thing so I think we have a competitiveness.”

“Sometimes he laps me [in the 3200-meter] and that’s embarrassing,” Brooklyn said.

“But I’m also two years older than you and a guy, so…” Camden said, laughing. 

They said they’ll often do easy runs together and train when they’re on vacations or out of season, much like the Nowik sisters, Alayna, a junior sprinter and hurdler, and Mikayla, a senior sprinter and long jumper. 

“We go to the [Richmond Athletic Club] and we’ll be on the same schedule, but we’re not working together, but it’s like we have a sister connection,” Alayna said. 

That “sister connection” has helped them in previous sports like volleyball and basketball, and now it helps as they come together for three of the Tigers relays: the 4×100, 4×200, and 4×400. 

“We’ve done pretty much every sport together,” Mikayla said. “It’s fun.” 

But fun doesn’t always mean friendly. 

“It’s always a competition,” Alayna said. 

“Very much so. I usually beat her,” Mikayla answered.

And sometimes, siblings push each other to try new things, like Joe Bommarito did with his twin brother Giovanni. The now-seniors had tried golf their freshman year, but decided they wanted something different. Joe chose track as a junior, and Giovanni joined him, perhaps hesitantly. 

“I don’t really like running,” Giovanni said.

“But I made him do it,” Joe said. 

Giovanni found his niche among the throwers though, and he’s already made significant improvements upon last season’s marks. 

At the end of the day, these siblings just want one another – and their team – to succeed. 

“We kind of just care about if we beat our personal records and that’s all that matters,” freshman Emily Brown said. “Yeah we might not have placed, but if we both PR’d, that’s more important.”

Emily and her twin sister Kimberly are throwers on the team who have found it’s best to cheer each other on in their own strengths. 

“[Emily] is better in the shot put and I’m better in discus,” Kimberly said. “I think it’s good to have one of us better at one thing and the other better at another thing because then it makes both of us strive to be better at the opposing events, but to also focus on our one event to keep getting better at that too so they don’t catch up.” 

And while there might be a lot of “smack talk” when they get home, according to Kimberly, they still critique and help each other get better at the end of every meet.

“We go home and talk about the things that we could do better or that we noticed that each other did wrong so we can fix our mistakes and do better next time,” Emily said. 

For the Armada Tigers, their teammates are more than friends. They’re family, and also built-in training partners and even coaches, and all of it combines to make for one fun team.

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