By Julia Golkalp
Some people become frustrated when they believe they lack a vital skill in a sport. Perhaps it is speed in baseball or softball, accuracy in tennis, or strength in football. Track and field is a sport that involves all of these aspects in different event areas. Despite what people may believe, track and field is more than fast-paced racing. It is a sport that is comprised of people with various talents, strengthened by training so that weaknesses are amended and strengths are enhanced.
Track, as described by a member of the boys’ team (there is a team for boys and one for girls) is described as a technical sport, one that requires “technique and mental and physical strength.” Helpful attributes such as speed are important in some events but can only be put to use with the correct technique. Training is meant to steel the minds of the athletes and push their endurance level to the limit. Even sprinters are supposed to push themselves in distance runs.
Sprinting is likely one of the event areas that is associated with track the most. Some believe that sprinting is about maintaining speed; slowing down the least is the key to victory. These events, described as “the most exciting and fastest events in track and field,” make one’s heart race for much effort must be put into the races in order to accomplish a sprinting goal. These races include the 100 meter, the 200 meter, the 400 meter, hurdles (at different lengths), and relays. Although speed is vital in order to win a sprinting event, technique is just as important, for it can be the difference between setting a new personal record (PR) and not setting one.
Jumpers often train in a similar way as sprinters do, since they need power and speed as well in order to jump as far or high as possible in their events: the high, long, and triple jumps. The importance of “knee drive” is emphasized in all jumps, for using the propulsion from lifting up one’s knee, the jumper travels farther or higher. The differences in training between jumpers and sprinters involve practicing knee drive or runways. Pole vaulting, although it is quite different from the other jumps, falls into a similar category. Like the high jump, a bar must be cleared with the help of a long pole and days of practiced technique. Some who compete in pole vault events find them to be fun.
Distance runners sometimes consider their events to be fun as well. Their events include the 800 meter and two mile (comparatively, 3200 meters). Both sprinters and distance runners alike are often tired after running distance, but distance runners find their event fulfilling. Pacing oneself and not sprinting at the start is an important piece of advice that distance runners will give. Energy needs to be conserved in the events, for they can be rather strenuous.
There are some events that involve little to no running at all. These are the throwing events, such as the shot put, discus, and javelin. The shot put involves putting (not throwing, or injuries will likely occur) a heavy metal ball known as a shot as far as possible. The discus uses a metal object similar to a Frisbee. The javelin is similar to a spear. In all three events, the goal is to throw (or in the case of the shot put, to put) the objects as far away as possible.
Although in each of the events winning is important to the competitors and the teammates who watch and cheer, it is not the only goal in this sport. Many join track to improve their physique (partly in time for summer), while others want to become stronger. Athletes generally strive to achieve personal records (PRs, for short). Even though one of the teams may lose a meet, the athlete often feels accomplished if personal improvement is achieved or if one of his teammates shows improvement. Teammates often support each other, either by cheering from the field or after the event, and are supportive of each other all around, and it is this camaraderie that many athletes love about track more than anything else.