March 12, 2008

Dealing With the Elements: Track Season Transition

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In a few days, most Cornell students will make the transition from morning classes and late-night studying to relaxation and possibly a bit of partying. For the men’s and women’s track teams, this week will include a different transition. Just as the indoor track season wraps up, the athletes must abandon the heated confines of Barton Hall and head to the Robert J. Kane Sports Complex as the sport moves to its outdoor season.
This Friday and Saturday, qualified members of the Red will compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships in the final competition of the indoor season. That same Saturday, the outdoor season begins, and the track team will compete in the first of the two California-based events that the team is preparing for.
“This year in particular, there’s almost no transition time,” said men’s head coach Nathan Taylor. “It’s just the way the calendar fell. It leaves us this weekend with some kids going to the [NCAA] Indoor Championships and our first outdoor meet is this week at Northridge.”
There are some differences in terms of what events take place in the different seasons, particularly in the weight events. In the outdoor season, the weight throw is replaced by the hammer, discus and javelin throws. The 3,000-meter steeplechase is also reserved for the summer. A few athletes who specialize in either specific weight events or in the steeplechase compete with the team only during the outdoor season, but it is very rare for an athlete to compete exclusively indoors.[img_assist|nid=28769|title=Leaping Lauren|desc=| Freshman hurdler Lauren Tanz (left) competes in the 60-meter hurdles at the Heptagonal Games in Barton Hall on March 2. Tanz and the rest of the track team will have to adjust to dealing with the elements for the outdoor track season.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Another change is that a few of the running and hurdling events are contested at different distances during the two seasons. One other aspect of the transition is that a larger track is used for the outdoor season.
“You go from a 200-meter track to a 400-meter track and it’s going to look like its 800 meters [to our runners], just because they’ve gotten so used to the shorter track,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing.
An underrated element of the difference between the seasons is the role that weather can play.
“Wind, rain…all of those things really can wreak havoc in your jumping events and all of your running events,” Duesing said. “When you think about weather, there’s not really much you can do [to prepare] but get out, get in it, and try to not to get distracted by it.”
Duesing added that, in terms of training his athletes, he typically treats the outdoor season as a continuation of the indoor season and tries to ensure that his athletes peak toward the end of the outdoor season for events such as Heps, ECACs and the NCAAs. Coach Taylor said that he uses a slightly different approach, focusing on strength and conditioning at the beginning of each season and perfecting technique later on.
“We try to sort of back off a little bit and do more basic training for all of the events for about a month [at the beginning of the outdoor season],” coach Taylor said. “What we want to do is get their strength and their fitness back to as high as we can get it before we start honing techniques.”
Both coaches agree that Cornell tends to perform slightly better during the outdoor season.
“Our focus is on getting maximum performances from the kids on the team at the end of the year so we’re much more of an outdoor team than an indoor team,” Taylor said.
He noted that Cornell is typically strong in the events that are exclusively contested outdoors, which contributes to the slight imbalance in success between the seasons.
“When people think about track, they think about outdoor track,” Duesing said, “You can’t peak for indoor and for outdoor, so the quality of the performances usually is higher in May than it is in March. Historically, I think we’ve done a pretty job of having people march forward and get better as the year goes on.”