MILFORD >> Platt Tech coach Mykal Kuslis admits he’s exhausted.
But the fatigue has come with a reward.
In its first official year as a program, the Platt Tech girls indoor track and field team is thriving. Nine Panthers have already qualified for states. Thursday at the Floyd Little Athletic center (4 p.m.), Platt Tech will be vying for the Constitution State Conference title.
“He doesn’t go home till, like midnight,” senior Maria Shashinka said of Kuslis.
“And everywhere he goes he brings his little clipboard and he looks at all the stats,” added senior Taylor Boone.
In years past, there weren’t enough girls to form a team at the school. Kuslis, who was an assistant with the boys’ team last winter, saw the potential and pushed for the position.
A coach with the girls’ soccer and softball programs, Kuslis made an effort to seek out more athletes. The only other female sport offered at the school in the winter is basketball.
The team blossomed from having about a dozen girls to 35 this season.
“We used to be with the boys’ team and the boys and girls would go on the same bus (to meets),” senior Kim Roy said. “Now we have to take three different buses because there are so many girls.”
Kuslis, who ran track for Eastern Connecticut State, said his philosophy this year has been based on a foundation of enjoyment and making sure the kids develop.
“I wanted the girls to come out and have fun,” Kuslis said. “I wanted them to have the opportunity to run and better themselves. Track is a unique sport in that you go to a meet and everyone can compete; it’s great for the elite athletes and beginners.”
Kuslis’ energy and passion for the sport has been infectious. Girls who were on the team before notice the difference, and want to be at practice.
“He knows our potential, so he just pushes us. He cares about us,” senior jumper Alissa Vazquez said.
Added Roy: “He motivates every single one of us.”
The early success for Platt Tech has been based on dedication and a desire to get better. Kuslis said the Panthers are strong in just about every area — sprints, distance, throws, jumps — and girls are also vaulting for the first time.
However, Kuslis is realistic. He knows the Panthers have a good shot at the conference crown Thursday, but competing for a Class S state title is something they are slowly building toward.
“Conference is that first step,” he said.
But right now, especially for the seniors, this season has been something special.
“I think it’s even better because we’re doing so well in our first year,” Vazquez said. “And as a senior, it’s just good we’re leaving with a bang.”