Courtesy of Cornell Athletics

Tobe Attah and the Red earned first place in the 4X400m relay at UCLA.

April 5, 2016

Stories From an Athlete: Tobe Attah and the Track Team Take on Southern California

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Almost in the blink of an eye, my third indoor track season came to an end. There were definite highs and lows, but the overall experience felt like all the work we put in as a team was well worth it.

Before I knew it, selected members of the Cornell track and field team and I found ourselves on a trip to Southern California. It took almost half a day to travel across the country, but finally landing at the Long Beach Airport was surreal. We were anxious to take advantage of the much needed spring break from Ithaca.

Although it was considered our spring break, we were all still expected to perform at our most optimal levels. Head coach Adrian Durant emphasized the great opportunity we had competing in such ideal outdoor conditions, setting a goal for us to try and qualify for regionals in May. The earlier we attained this goal, the more we could focus on training right to move onto nationals.

Nonetheless, all our coaches gave us plenty of free time to enjoy the California scene and soak in the sun. Being in sun-deprived Ithaca took its toll on us all year, so relaxing under some vitamin-D rays was a top priority as well.

I was not shy to get acclimated to what SoCal had to offer. Hotel Irvine, the place we stayed for the entire break, was fortunate enough to have bicycle rentals available for guests. Almost every morning, I went on a bike ride to serve as an active recovery as well as explore the Irvine area. Being an Irving, Texas native, it felt like a home away from home … with more palm trees.

Soon enough, the weekend came along and our team travelled to the UC Riverside Spring Break Invitational to compete in our first outdoor meet of the season. The scorching weather certainly shocked us competitors who were used to dealing with below freezing weather, but this did not stop us from showing the west coast schools what we were made of.

Overall, we all performed well. Key victories from the likes of Max Hairston, Bobby Plummer, and myself were the driving factors to earn us the meet win. In my first place finish, I even managed to run an outdoor personal best of 47.67 in the 400m dash. Also, I ran the 200m dash for the first time collegiately to win my heat, and it was neat to dip my track spikes into a new event for once.

After the win, the next few days were committed to training at Concordia University at Irvine. We had two-a-days, having a light practice at 9 a.m. followed by a more intense training session at 3:30 p.m.

Training sure was tough, but the CUI track team understood the pains of training hard. As I was sprawled out on the ground hyperventilating from repetitive 300m reps, the CUI team made sure to help me up. The small, supportive actions taken by this team really showed their generosity. Things like this as well as even letting us use their training facility made me very appreciative of their team dynamic.

After more training, preparation, and relaxation, we quickly found ourselves encountering the next weekend, where we would all compete at the Bruin Legends of T&F Invitational at UCLA. The weather was similar to the UC Riverside meet, but the track and training facilities were higher quality.

In my own 400m race, I did not perform exactly how I wanted to. I found myself more tired than usual with about 120m to go, and I could not earn the individual victory. Instead, I trudged across the finish line in 47.89 seconds to place third overall.

Although coach Durant knew I could have done better, he understood why I may have performed the way I did. The sun may have been my best friend when I was laying out absorbing it all week, but it certainly sweltered my body, diminishing my potential to show a peak performance.

Coach Durant also assured that my efforts were not in vain. In all of my previous seasons, running a 47 second 400m dash seemed like the ultimate goal for myself. The fact that a 47-high was a “bad day” for me only showed how much I have developed as an athlete.

Either way, the meet was not over for me after my individual race. I was still expected to run a good anchor leg for the 4x400m relay.

About 20 minutes before our relay, coach Durant alerted us that Princeton’s 4x400m ran 3:11 at the Florida Relays, not specifying the exact time. He left it up to us ensure that we ran a faster time than our rivals.

Being the anchor leg, I had the most accurate judgement of how close we were to their time. Once I received the baton from Larry Gibson, I booked it.

The final leg seemed close at first, but I gradually pulled away from the Kansas State A-team to solidify us as the winning 4x400m team. Even the announcer exclaimed that something absolutely crazy had to happen for us to lose the relay.

After my leg was over, I glanced at the scoreboard and noticed we ran a time of 3:11.55. Coach Durant came by to let us know our standing with Princeton. They ran an official time of 3:11.92, meaning we edged out their time by a shy .37 seconds.

Although the times were fairly close, I know that if it were a head-to-head race against us, Princeton, or any other Ivy League team, we would clearly come out on top like usual. The training we do along with the strong core of long sprinters we have always sets us up to have a successful 4x400m, and I know we can carry this success all the way to the Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at Princeton this year.

As always, be sure to stay updated on the latest Cornell track and field action. We plan to utilize this momentum from our California trip to tell even more legendary athletic stories.