Lakeland enters FitzPatrick's final track season Submitted: 03/19/2018

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MINOCQUA - Every stride at a Lakeland Union track practice is a step toward another championship.

"One of my goals as a head coach was to be able to win a conference championship," said Lakeland Union Head Coach Kevin FitzPatrick.

FitzPatrick that goal has become the norm.

"We've managed to make that happen on multiple occasions here," said FitzPatrick.

Under his guidance, the T-Birds have won eight Great Northern Conference boys titles in a row, and three in a row on the girls side.

They've also added nine straight titles in boys cross country.

"Coach Fitz is an awesome coach, I love him. He's funny, he's encouraging, just a great coach to be around," said senior Jim Drewry.

And when a moment seems too big for one of his athletes.

"All of us girls get very nervous, we're always like 'what do we do? How fast do we go? What are we doing in this race?'," said sophomore Aubrey Anderson.

FitzPatrick has a plan for them.

"He usually knows all the answers," said Anderson. "Actually, [he] always knows all the answers for us when we have questions."

This spring will be FitzPatrick's last time answering those questions every day.

He says the biggest key to success over the years has been helping his athletes believe in themselves.

"I was a high school athlete, I was a collegiate athlete. I never had an inkling that I could be on the podium," said FitzPatrick. "Yet, we've instilled in these kids that they better be on the podium, they should be on the podium, they can be on the podium."

But even individual trips to the podium are not possible without help from the rest of the team.

"Everybody knows maybe they're not the top dog right now, but their time will come if they stick it out and do the work. I think that whole team focus is really what's made Lakeland track and field and cross country the successful program that it is," said FitzPatrick.

FitzPatrick will retire at the end of the spring season after 27 combined years coaching at Lakeland Union.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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