Several members of the Jackson County Central track and field team were sitting around a backyard fire one evening after a track meet, doing what teenagers do. They talked, they laughed, they shared moments from that day’s competition. But they also kept an eye on their cell phones, because they knew something good was coming on Twitter.
It’s known as a “Twitter barrage” and it’s the work of their coach, Rafe York. Following each competition, after everyone has returned home and York is looking through the results, he begins issuing Tweets that are a mixture of results, jokes and entertaining observations. Some samples … Kailey Koep discovered that if she sprints on the runway, she'll jump farther in the long jump. Who'd a thunk?Matt Strom threw the shot 37' 7.5, which I believe is one foot farther than the average flight of a North Korean missile.
“It’s so fun,” said sophomore track team member Hailey Handevidt. “My mom was in Rochester and she texted me because she wanted to know when the Twitter barrage was coming out.”
Huskies junior Molly Boyum said, “They’re funny. Everybody waits for them to get done. We all want to see what he has to say about us and what sarcastic comments he has.”
The account can be found at @JCCTandF on Twitter. Several hundred people follow the account.
York, who teaches English, also is the head coach of the Huskies girls and boys cross-country teams (and yes, he posts Twitter barrages after cross-country competitions, too) and an assistant boys basketball coach. He has been the Jackson County Central track coach for seven years.Clayton Cavness made his varsity debut and learned a valuable lesson. Distance runners shouldn't eat like throwers.In the second heat of the girls' 300 Hurdles Zoe Pohlman left a face-shaped dent in the track... but she popped up, finished the race, and placed 9th...the scrapes all over her body are going to burn in the shower.
“When I took over I thought we needed a way to get results out,” York said. “Twitter was the way to go. At first it was just basic results and I guess my personality started coming through.
“I figure track is a hard enough sell. If I can make it look a little more fun by goofing off a little and having fun, maybe it will get more kids out.”We didn't run a girls' 4x200 or 4x800. The blame should be placed squarely on Annika's tonsils.Easton Bahr placed 5th in the 100. He also learned that if the gun is fired a second time, it means stop because there was a false start.
Clearly, York isn’t afraid to give his athletes an elbow in the ribs via Twitter. They know him – and his sense of humor – well and they look forward to seeing their name in the latest barrage.
“Sometimes we’ll say stuff that is kind of dumb or funny or just like weird, and he’ll put it in his barrage and make fun of us,” Boyum said. “And then we’re like, ‘OK, now the whole world knows about that.’ ”
Handevidt said, “He likes to Tweet a lot, and they’re always funny to read. And it won’t just be about the track meet. It’ll be about something that happens on the bus and we’ll just laugh about it.”
York said one of the benefits of being in a small town is that he knows the kids and their parents.
“It works as long as the kids and the parents are going to appreciate the joke,” he said.
He ends every barrage with the same message: I love Track season.
That’s a statement heard frequently around the Huskies in the spring.
“I’ve been saying that in practice for years,” York said. “I was a head coach in Colorado and one day in practice I just sort of blurted it out. When we’re out practicing in the rain, I’ll yell. 'I love track season!’ ” (Pictured here is York with Hailey Handevidt, Molly Boyum and Jessica Christoffer.)If you're a junior and you're still reading tonight's barrage, GO TO BED! You have the ACT tomorrow.
Did I mention @jamiek1980 brought cookies from the Lakefield Bakery to celebrate Kailey's birthday? I only ate three.
“I think it’s really great,” junior Jessica Christoffer said of the coach’s post-meet social-media habit. “I always stay up super late just to hear what York has to say. It’s also great to see what he has to say about the other people that I may have missed in the meet.
“If our 4x4 does really good, we’ll say, ‘York, our 4x4 needs a Twitter barrage. Say something about the starter, and then second, third and fourth!’ ”
Reaction to the Twitter barrages comes not only from athletes and their parents.
“It’s kind of crazy,” York said. “I’ll come into school the next day and people will ask me about it; ‘Hey, what did that one mean?’ I like seeing the reactions. Sometimes I get distracted seeing who’s liking and who’s re-Tweeting.”Hailey lists The Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan, and Avatar amoung her favorite movies. None of them would make my Top 5. I used the British spelling of "among" intentionally there.Sophie Johnson, Hailey Handevidt, Zoe Pohlman, Regional Manager Kaitlin Feroni, and I talked Prom, movies, and music on the way home.
The Huskies’ next track meet will be Monday in St. Peter.
A new barrage will follow.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 592
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 10,105
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn