Track and field gears up for season's first meet
This coming Saturday, March 7, marks the official start of the men’s and women’s track and field season with the Willamette Invitational.
The team practices every day except Sunday, with a combination of practicing technique on the track and weightlifting in the gym. While sprint training is usually split by gender, many facets of the practice are co-ed.
17th-year head coach Matt McGuirk and his staff provide direction for the team through the planning of workouts and practices. The staff gives out the workouts and, during practice, assists with the team’s technique. Certain events need less technical help, such as most of the running events. Other events need a lot more coaching supervision to achieve a high level of execution. Events on the technical part of the spectrum include the high jump and triple jump.
Track and field’s season is in the spring, though usually the team works out in the fall to prepare for the season. However, many of the track distance runners compete in the fall as members of the cross country squads.
Like most student-athletes, a loaded in-season schedule forces the track and field athletes to manage their time wisely to complete school work. Senior Brian Peck believes that the lack of free time actually makes him more responsible: “When your sport is [in season], it forces you to work when you have [free time]. But when you’re in the off-season… you have all this time, so you think you have tons of time to get your work done, but then you never get it done.”
Track and field compete in meets, where two or more schools meet at one location and participate in events. According to Peck, the most important meet of the year for the team is the Northwest Conference Championships (NWCC) at the end of April, where there is a lot of strategy deployed to score as many points as possible for the team. In the meets leading up to NWCC, the intent is different: “Track is individual until we get to conference, and there the entire mind-set changes. Throughout the entire season, you’re just trying to [improve].”
The mindset of improvement is reflected in the execution of the meets. Each event usually only has one round, with each individual participating logging one attempt rather than having qualifying and final rounds. Leading up to the NWCC, track athletes will often run in a variety of different events. For example, a runner who usually runs 400-meter sprints may participate in a 200-meter sprint. However, field event athletes like throwers (shot put, javelin, hammer, and discus) tend to do their events every meet.
Peck said that he is trying to limit his expectations for the season. “I want to think that I’m going to do well, but I don’t want to have too many expectations because if I come in with super high expectations then early on in the season if I don’t quite meet those, then I’m going to get bummed out and lose motivation.”
A successful season for Peck does not necessarily mean hitting certain benchmarks. Peck would rather look back and say, “I tried my hardest.” For Peck, this includes eating healthy, getting enough sleep and being as coachable as he can. Off the track, this means getting academic work done in a timely manner so that he is not stressed about it: “When stressed out, no one runs as fast.” Lastly, Peck has learned to have a certain mindset to compete his best:
“What I’ve learned in my years here, the way you compete the best and the way you have the best time is focus on having fun. That’s why we’re out there, to have fun.”
The Willamette Opener meet will be held on Saturday, March 7 at McCullough Stadium, with events beginning at 9 a.m.