Littlestown boys' track and field head coach Corey Bittle vividly remembers the team he had five years ago. It was a great group of guys who despite not winning the division, began laying the foundation for hard-work and success, and created a winning attitude.
That foundation has been paying off ever since for the Thunderbolts as they had won three consecutive YAIAA Division C titles heading into this season. Bittle knew the road to four was going to be more complicated because the Bolts' were going from a Class AA team to a Class AAA, meaning a steep jump in competition.
Littlestown never blinked as they captured their fourth consecutive division title by going a perfect 7-0 on the season and 6-0 in the division. The success earned Bittle the title of Boys' Track and Field Coach of the Year.
"This year, since we moved up to Class AAA we had to have a whole new set of standards to look at and a whole new list of goals for each kid to accomplish so our approach was to get our guys into districts first and then once you are in there, who knows what can happen."
Bittle knew heading into the season that his team had the potential to be pretty strong.
Their main loss from the year before was sprinter Branden Study, but the team was able to replace him with Xavier Sauvageau, who had missed his junior season with injuries, and in sprints they received a shot in the arm by the surprise performance of senior Josh Hicks, who went out for track for the first time this year.
"He was on the football team and I coach football so I knew he was quick and fast," Bittle said. "But I didn't know he would be 100 meter fast. I didn't know if he was that fast, but it turned out that he was. I thought we had some depth, but we didn't have that elite person that Branden was the year before. A couple meets into it, Josh comes out and shows us he was pretty good."
Hicks was part of a senior class that won their division all four years and finished their careers with a 27-1 record, with their lone loss coming to Delone Catholic as sophomores.
"I think the seniors really looked at it as wanting to complete all four years," Bittle said. "Our team was very confident. The kids knew they were good and worked hard at making sure they finished their four years off right."
Bittle hopes that what the senior class has done will carry over to the juniors and that they will want to continue the success and have a four-year run of their own. He knows in order to do that, they will have to put in the hard work.
The Thunderbolts transitioned seamlessly to Class AAA, as they sent three individuals and two relays to the District 3 meet.
"I think the success we had was a surprise for some," Bittle said. "We had guys like Dustin Crouse and Xavier Sauvageau who know the opportunity they had at the league meet and at districts and had the mindset that all they needed to do was have one very good day to continue, and at districts they each did that."
Part of the reason for the success of the Thunderbolts was their depth. Something Bittle acknowledges is only possible because of his assistant coaches, many of whom coach other sports.
"A lot of our success comes form our coaching staff," Bittle said. "We have coaches that coach other sports as well, so they do a lot of our recruiting for us. Not only is it good off-season conditioning for them, but they also find out that they can be really successful too."
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