There was a time when any and almost every accomplishment by a Greece Olympia boys indoor track team member received mention during the school’s daily announcements.
On the microphone was Mike LaBue, in promotion mode not long after became the team’s coach eight years ago.
“The goal was to publicize everything that the team did,” he said. “I would say, ‘You should have seen him run his fastest time of the year.’
“Well, the time didn’t qualify for sectionals.”
More students came out for the team, however, and the accomplishments are a little more sensational these days, since Olympia has one of the best indoor track teams in Section V. Olympia was called the best in the state from mid-January until last week, according to a formula used by MileSplit New York.
“We’re a track school,” LaBue said. “That’s a mindset more than anything.
“I used to tell the team, ‘You believe it, you’ll see it.’ “
The Spartans hope to win their second Section V indoor team title in three years, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday at Rochester Institute of Technology. One of the other main contenders for that title is Greece Athena, one of two teams that passed Olympia in the latest MileSplit state rankings.
The school campuses are about two and a half miles a part.
“The way the kids look at it is that if Greece was one team it would be the best team,” Athena coach Jean-Paul Scott said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie, even though we like to compete with each other.”
When Olympia senior Ja’marie Jefferson, a team member since his freshman year, lists what events he competes in, he keeps going. There is the 55- and 300-meter dashes. There are also the 800 relay, long jump and others.
The versatility can pay off for the Spartans, who can pick up more points in different events. Olympia has finished first at the Trent Jackson Invitational and the Rochester Relays Class AB meet, where the Spartans edged Rush-Henrietta by a point.
“Whatever they need honestly,” Jefferson said. “It depends on the week. As long as I train for it, I’ll be fine.
“I can’t say no, if it comes to the team winning.”
So if Jefferson is asked to race Athena sprinter Brian Smith, a state champion and a No. 1 seed in just about any local sprint race, “he runs his heart out,” LaBue said.
Jefferson began to compete in the triple jump for the first time this season. He is the No. 2 seed at the Class B sectionals on Saturday, with a top jump of 43 feet-1 3/4 inches.
The top seed is teammate and classmate, Craig Hardgers at 46-9 1/2. That is 2 feet-7 inches longer than his best jump outdoors last spring.
“These guys are doing amazing things,” LaBue added.
There is similar improvement by Hardgers in the long jump, where he is behind only teammate and Section V indoor record holder Desmond Mobley in the seeding at sectionals.
“With our group, it’s all competition,” Hardgers said. “Desmond has a high national ranking.
“I say, I can do it, too. Work hard and practice. It’s been like that with us since the seventh and eighth grade.”
Mobley set the sectional record when he long jumped 24 feet-1 inch during the Trent Jackson Invitational at The College at Brockport on Jan. 19. The runner-up that day was Hardgers, who jumped a personal-best 21-7 1/4.
The top three high jump seeds at the Class B sectionals are Olympia teammates, led by Mobley, whose season-best jump of 6-8 is tied for first on Section V’s leaderboard at yentiming.com. That is ninth on the milesplit.us national leaderboard.
Mobley is second on that United States leaderboard in the long jump. The 2012 All-Greater Rochester outdoor track and field athlete of the year has a chance to jump head-to-head against No. 1.
Andre Jefferson, a senior at John Tyler in Tyler, Texas, and Mobley plan to compete March 9 at the New Balance Indoor National Championships in the Bronx.
“It’s the only option,” Mobley said about Olympia winning sectionals. “As hard as we practice, we’re not looking to lose.
“Running and jumping in the hallways and the cafeteria, this is what we do. We have nationally ranked people in our school.”
Mobley, Hardgers, Jefferson and Raphael Tshibangu, the No. 2 seed in the Class B 600, are seniors. They helped Olympia win an indoor sectional title in 2011 and an outdoor championship last spring.
“They are very deep,” Scott said. “Olympia has done a really nice job in terms of recruitment and keeping kids involved, things like working with the football guys (players and coaches).”
It is also a team that knows disappointment. The Spartans have two second-place finishes at indoor sectionals the last three years, one because of a uniform violation, according to LaBue. Olympia finished a half-point out of first last winter.
“(Last year) the thought was I would win high jump and long jump,” Mobley said. “But (Wayne’s) Mike Morgan high jumped 3 inches more than he had, and had a good long jump.
“That messed up the points.”
Tshibangu, Olympia’s top middle-distance runner, pulled a hamstring muscle in mid-January. An outdoor sectional champion with a relay, Tshibangu has failed to finish a race since.
“I’m still going to try and win,” Tshibangu said. “It’s not going to be easy. I have faith though, it’s all I need, really.
“We’ve come a long way. Back then, we had a small, select few kids who were able to score in sectionals. We went to meets and didn’t know if we could win. Now we expect to win. It’s on us if we don’t (on Saturday), and it’s not going to be great. At school, it’s going to be, ‘What happened?’ ”