Senior Spotlight: Handwerk put in the work for Souderton Area

One of Will Handwerk’s goals coming into the spring was to run a sub five-minute mile within the first few weeks.
After all, the Souderton Area senior was only eight seconds away from breaking five minutes during the winter season after coming back from a knee injury.
He also wanted to be able to regularly run the 3,200-meter during meets.
Then came the shutdown.
“My training did not stop,” he said. “I was not sure we would shut down for the entire school year, and I plan to run (next year). So, I continued to run and to gradually increase my weekly mileage like I would in a regular track season.
“I trained by myself, which was okay,” Handwerk said. “However, the trails by my house and the Perkiomen Trail were quickly swamped with people. It became very frustrating to run on the trails because very few people would move over. I ultimately had to run on the roads (Route 113, School House Road, and Main Street in Harleysville).”
Handwerk’s adventures were just beginning.  
“Another problem was finding a track to clock my workouts – an essential part of my training,” he said. “And track workouts require, well, a track.
“In the first few weeks, most tracks were still open but technically closed. One day, I arrived at the Indian Valley Middle School, and there was a sign stating no one is permitted on the track. Instead of using the track, I had to use a loop around the Harleysville baseball fields.”
And again, there was a lot of traffic.
“Unfortunately, there were still people on those trails,” Handwerk said. “Ultimately, I completely stopped using community trails and was confined to the roads. Overall, I find it very difficult to get sufficient training without my coaches, teammates, and a regimented training schedule.”
In a season that never was, Handwerk embodied the spirit of the Souderton Area track and field team, one that never stopped pushing and preparing.
“Will really became – over the past 12 months – one of the most dedicated runners and a true leader on the team,” Big Red coach John Donahue said. “He was in charge of all the team drills after our workouts.
“He had improved so much and I am so disappointed that he did not get a senior season. He is still training right now and I am hopeful that he continues running.”
Missing the guys >> There is no substitution for teamwork.
“I miss our team so much,” Handwerk said. “I looked forward to seeing them at school and on the track. We are all brothers – a family – a bit chaotic at times, but a happy, cohesive family. We always had a fun time, no matter if we ran in below-freezing temperatures or were drenched in sweat on the hottest day of summer.
“I wonder sometimes what memories, fun jokes, and even stronger friendships we would have carried away with us. Regardless, I am happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of the track community – I’ve learned so much about running and made some great friends these past few years.”    
Although individual accomplishments are a big part of track and field, what Handwerk enjoys most about the sport is the people.  
“The coaches really care about us – on and off the track, and those who run, throw, jump and enjoy this sport are very unique,” the Souderton standout said. “There’s a very strong sense of community. Everyone is so supportive.
“Our parents have fundraisers and throw pasta parties for us before meets – we have a great time together. We can all relate to each other’s goals, accomplishments, and even struggles and worries. Track and field could never be what it is without the people that make the sport so special.”
Leader of the pack >> Handwerk has evolved into a leader for Big Red.
“I appreciate Coach Donahue saying that,” he said, “although our team has many leaders who try their best and set a good example for others. How I see leadership is determined by what I experienced when I first joined the team.”
Handwerk looked up to the seniors, and would try to run with them despite it being so difficult to keep up.
“After the runs, the older boys would give me pointers and suggestions on how I should train,” Handwerk remembers. “They were never mean about it. Sure, they would joke, but they always encouraged me and wanted to help me and others achieve our best times.
“They believed in me and told me that I could be just as fast as them – work hard and just try your best. The older boys inspired me and fueled my passion for running. They were good leaders. Believing in your teammates, supporting them on and off the field, sharing advice without criticism, and even simply saying, ‘nice job,’ is what it means to me to show leadership. Our track team has many leaders, and it’s all about supporting each other.”  
Souderton was special >> Competing for Big Red was a unique experience for Handwerk.
“Hearing the bells ring from the bleachers, people cheering and jumping up and down for you, and screaming their heads off saying, ‘You got this! Don’t look back!,’ is what gets my adrenaline pumping,” he shared. “Every time I cross that finish line, there’s like a little fire in me that keeps on growing, wanting to compete more, more, and more. It’s exciting, really.”   The shutdown has been rough, but not without its rewards.  
“I don’t see this as a terrible situation for an athlete,” Handwerk believes. “I see it as a hurdle. Someday, I’ll be able to jump over this hurdle and continue running. And I’ll look back and say, ‘I got through this.’
“I feel that I have become more and more excited for the future – like attending college, running, and wherever life takes me.”
During the down time, Handwerk has been able to draw more, usually doodling whatever comes to mind and coloring it in with different markers.
He has also been able to talk to friends more, play video games with them, and spend more time listening and discovering music.
Next year, he’ll be running cross country at Penn State Abington.
“I am very, very excited to run for them and looking forward to a strong freshman season,” Handwerk said.

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