Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines
This article was written for an On-Site Sports Writing Competition at the Southeastern Journalism Conference at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where it won 2nd place.
As March approaches and the weather begins to warm up, track and field teams all throughout college athletics are going through final preparations for their outdoor schedules. The Harding Bison are no exception, as they used last Friday’s colder weather to gear up for another season in the Great American Conference.
After their appearance at the Indoor Gorilla Classic on Saturday, they still have a couple weeks to train for the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in Pittsburgh, Kansas. Until then, they’ll deal with colder weather and harsh winds as they train.
Though it may affect others physically, the runners know that the essence of their competition revolves around how well they focus.
“Most of running is mental,” said junior Kaylin Turley. “We try to not let it affect us, but the wind always takes a toll (on runners).”
Though she spends more time competing in the 400-meter and the 4×400-meter relays, Turley completed a successful 200-meter run on Friday with a time of 26.32 seconds. She was a sprinter during the indoor season, but her run showed that she was capable of more.
“I was happy with my performance,” Turley said. “Coming out here and running (the way we did) felt like jogging.”
The cold weather didn’t chase freshman Cara Mason away either, who put in work with the shot put. In three throws she managed to increase her distance from 10.57 meters to 11.19 meters in her third. While she managed to get better in each attempt, the answer was simple.
“It was better execution,” Mason said. “I usually build up (strength) when I go through my throws … Today, I was able to power through and get a better throw.”
One of her coaches believes that the lack of a better warm-up mixed with the weather was also key in her third throw being her best.
“They didn’t have a great warm-up so, by the time she got to her third throw, she felt a little more fluid,” said Assistant Coach Mesa Allison. “The wind doesn’t necessarily affect the throws and sprints, but it does affect distance running. For sprints and throws, you have fast-twitch muscles and explosiveness that really gets hit hard when it’s cold.”
With the time remaining between meets, Allison knows that he isn’t really looking for his players to expend all their energy on a single practice. Moreso, he’s looking to see if they are showing progress in their specific events.
“Since you are not going all out at practice, we are looking more at form,” Allison said. “How they look and how they are performing (is key) … We’re not looking to see if they are going as hard as they can, but if they are putting effort into (running) deliberately and if they are out here looking to improve.”
While it may not be ideal to practice in colder conditions, Allison believes that it is crucial in their preparation for the outdoor season.
“We try to make sure that if it’s not dangerous, we have them work outside to get used to the wind and the cold,” Allison said. “Later in the season, they then have to get used to the heat.”
Some may shy away from practice because of the weather, but these athletes aren’t. They know that to succeed; they must be driven by a sole variable: competition.
“Every day is a day of hard work,” Turley said. “We hardly ever get a day off … Getting out here and competing always makes you better.”