March 27, 2007

Track Teams Enjoy Success, Weather Out West

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The men’s and women’s track teams spent their Spring Break where many other Cornell students did — in 75 degree weather on the sun-drenched beach. For the athletes, however, that meant traveling cross-country to California to compete in two meets and train twice a day for eight days to kick off the team’s outdoor season. Although the Red placed a combined 13 runners in the NCAA Regional’s and won this weekend’s UC Irvine Classic, many members of the team enjoyed the trip for reasons other than success on the track.

“Oh, I see it as more of a privilege than a duty,” said junior Crystal Thomas, who qualified for ECAC’s in the discus event with a score of 140-5. “This is my third year going, and it really gets you excited to do well in the outdoor season.”

Popular among players are the free stipend, the all-expense-paid policy of the California trip and the weather.

“We were a couple of hours late just getting out of Ithaca because of the snowstorm,” said sophomore Jeomi Maduka, Saturday’s triple jump winner and an NCAA Regional qualifier. “The change of weather is a big positive. … It’s the biggest difference between Ithaca and California.”

Thomas went as far as saying that the California sunshine helps the team perform better.

“It’s warm and sunny, but also breezy, so it feels great,” she said. “I think starting the season in great weather definitely improves our performance … and gets the team off to a very good start.”

Freshman Owen Kimple, who finished first in the 3000 meters on Friday in his first California trip, added that the team members gained the opportunity to get to know one another and to bond as a team.

“The training actually wasn’t that bad at all,” said Maduka. “Just a light jog in the morning and [harder] practices in the afternoon … I [still] feel lucky to go.”

Other players added that training is a small price to pay because it is merely doing something they love to do anyway.

Training in California, unlike training during the school year, enabled the team to focus on its performance without any distractions.

“There’s no school, no prelims or classes to worry about,” said senior David Pell, who set a new Cornell high-jump record of 7-1. “You can also get your qualifying marks out of the way and focus on the rest of the year.”

The runners did have some downtime, though, which they enjoyed just as much.

“We went out to eat, we went to the malls a lot,” said Thomas.

“I did some shopping and watched television,” said Maduka.

“I went to the beach [in San Diego] a couple of times, just hung out and relaxed,” said Kimple.

Pell and other team members also made a nearby stop to Los Angeles to see President Skorton’s address to the Cornell Club of L.A.

In the end, then, the team was able to enjoy its break while starting the season in dominating fashion. Pell summed the trip up best:

“There were really no disadvantages at all.”