During one of the Quince Orchard High School indoor track and field team’s first practices of the season last November, first-year assistant coach Larrissa Plummer prescribed a workout for the Cougars and knew immediately they weren’t quite “feeling it,” she said. “I got this vibe like, ‘This isn’t what we normally do,’” Plummer said. “But I told them, ‘How about we do this today, and see how it goes.’ I always say you have to trust the process.”
It wasn’t long before the Cougars trusted Plummer—a former pentathlete and heptathlete for the Lock Haven (Penn.) University indoor and outdoor track and field teams, respectively—wholeheartedly.
“At first I did question myself; I was like, ‘If this is something different, am I doing it wrong?’” Plummer said. “But you see the progress, you see people breaking records and building off (the talent) they already have. … People started stopping me in the hall and asking, ‘Are you Coach Plummer? I hear you’re making people faster, making people stronger.’ And that made me feel like not only did the
kids believe in me, but they believed in themselves. They trusted (my workouts) and worked together to get better.”
Plummer, who specializes in sprints, field events and hurdles, came to Quince Orchard, where she was recently hired to teach Physical Education, at just the right time, longtime Cougars track coach Seann Pelkey said. Last year’s sprint/jumps coach had just resigned—he left to go on a Mormon mission—when Plummer walked into Pelkey’s office.
As Quince Orchard’s fourth sprint coach in as many years, Pelkey said he was particularly impressed with Plummer’s ability to earn the respect of the team’s veteran athletes, who tend to be set in their own ways, so quickly, while implementing a new workout plan. But it’s hard to argue with someone who clearly knows what she’s talking about.
“(Plummer’s) biggest thing, as a multievent athlete, is that she has a basic understanding of all of the events,” Pelkey said. “When I started, I was a middle distance and distance runner in college and had to learn about sprints and jumps and field events. Her experience has transitioned into being a great coach; she’s a great communicator.”
In a world where female coaches are the minority—even in women’s sports—Plummer breaks the stereotypical mold. A power lifter herself, she’s a proponent of strength training and said she hopes to instill in her young female athletes a sense of confidence in their musculature. And she’s no softy. Her workouts are purposefully challenging, and she strives to push each athlete to the brink every day, she said.
“I love the idea of (the Cougar girls) having a female coach to look up to. And one thing I want to (enforce) is that it’s OK to be a strong individual,” Plummer said. “Knowing that it’s not a male just telling them to get in the weight room and lift, but a female who has lifted and competed. And I think the guys see how strong (the girls) have gotten and really look to them as strong runners and strong people.”
The Cougar girls have dropped several school records this winter, including two at the Class 4A West Region meet held Feb. 7 at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex. Junior Kyra Lyles bested her own previous record in the 300-meter dash with a 41.43 second performance to finish third and qualify for the seasonending state meet scheduled for Feb. 19—the top four finishers in each event at regionals, plus anyone who achieved certain predetermined standards, advanced to states. Lyles also finished third in the 500m run, an event the multi-faceted athlete has begun to specialize in this winter. Lyles also led off Quince Orchard’s 800m relay that included seniors Alexis Martin, Zakaiyah Bright and sophomore Danejah Kyle who finished fourth in a school-record 1 minute, 47.69 seconds.
“(The relay team’s main goal) was to get to states; they got a little buried after leg one and had to fight around some traffic and got caught but they’ve got even more time in them,” Pelkey said. “I think they are each capable of running half a second faster and that will put them right in the thick of things. This has been a priority for them for so long, when the opportunity is presented to them, they’re ready to go after it.” Junior high jumper Maeve Smith also qualified for the state meet as did junior shot putter Steven Williams on the boys’ side.
After a revolving door of assistant coaches, Plummer said she wants to bring consistency to the program and hopes to continue, alongside Pelkey, bringing more pride to the track team and building the program back up into a legitimate state title contender. The success of Lyles, Martin, Bright and Kyle will help set the standard and serve as motivation for the next generation, Plummer said.
“I have some really talented freshmen coming through and I’m so excited to keep training them,” she said. “From the beginning, I saw their natural talent and they’ve bought into the process and as long as they keep doing what they’re doing and we keep seeing improvement, by the time they’re seniors, they’ll be (competing at the top).”