Runners prepare for upcoming track season


Shoes and backpacks stored in the atrium while the runners venture outside

Jared Geyer

After the hustle to rush to the bus stop and the parking lot after long school hours, a group of teammates hang around the atrium in order to prepare themselves for the coming season ahead. Even through the sometimes blistering cold weather, these students run for almost an hour every evening, preparing for the upcoming track season.
“We meet in the atrium,” Clayton Morgan said while discussing off-season practice. “It’s beneficial that I get to run… keeps me semi in shape so i can be ready for track.”
Most of these students want to build up and maintain their fitness before the oncoming season, training early to get personal records in the upcoming season. This means gearing up in gloves and hats and combating the cold weather for 30 to 45 minutes each afternoon. The atrium bustles with activity before they run, with multiple groups of students engaging in games while waiting for their fellow teammates to arrive.
Off-season running is obviously in contrast to regular season in many ways, one of them being coaches lessening interference with runners, as coach Neal Blackburn visits sprinters on Tuesdays and Thursdays and gives long distance runners posted workouts to work from.
Because I coach the equivalent of four teams over two seasons, I try to lay a bit more low,” Blackburn said. “The off-season is essentially the athlete’s’ opportunity to take ownership over their running, as long as they follow the set program, they will typically make growth in prep for the season.”
While training for the season is the first priority, an important factor that keeps the runners engaged is the fellowship and cooperation with their fellow students.
“Team bonding, games, traditions and training to improve myself by either doing long runs or doing abs,” Jack Stevens said he does in the off-season.
Good examples of the aforementioned team bonding come in the time in and before running. Games involving hacky sacks are played in which teammates get in a circle and kick a hacky sack three times and try to catch it. If someone catches it, then they stay in place and try to throw and hit other players. Team bonding also comes in the form of conversation, as running with groups assigned by the coach needs more than small talk to fit the 35 minute void.
Jack is part of the vocal majority of off-season runners that also ran cross country. These students have experienced the fun times in similar sports as cross country, and want to achieve lightning in a bottle once again with their teammates, not only in terms of success, but also fond memories and relationships that have grown out of the seasons. Stevens is a special case, however, since he ran with the varsity team at the Missouri state meet even though he was previously an alternate. Stevens and the rest of the varsity team finished 15th place in their division.
“Competing at state was amazing, but it came with a price from all the pressure,” Stevens said. “Being varsity showed me that I can do things I never thought I could, and with that new found ability I can go out and compete harder… This off-season has taught me that if you want success you need and have to be absolutely willing to train hard and be disciplined”
Stevens resounds the thoughts coming from most minds of the runners. With most runners gaining personal records in previous seasons or sports, they need to try to outdo themselves on the coming season, trumping what they had previously seen as lofty goals in order to not only better themselves, but the team as well.
My expectations for the team this coming spring are pretty high,” Blackburn said. “I would like to see us perform well at our initial time trial.  If we do, I know we will have an extremely productive season; however, if we come in unprepared, it will be difficult to make significant advancements.”