Winter Track Meets: What Goes On?


Senior Shea McLaughlin lines up for his prelim 55m hurdles race Elise Blanchet photo

Nerves turn to adrenalin as the sound of a single gunshot echoes through the building. The silence quickly fades as screams fill the air. Everyone’s watching intensely to see who will cross the line first.

There’s nothing more exciting yet nerve racking than a track meet. Being a track athlete comes with a lot of stress and panic, but being able to maintain that and turn it into adrenaline is such an important skill.

Track and field doesn’t get as much attention from the student body than it should. People always assume a track meet is boring and a waste of time, but they’ve never actually been to one. Yes they’re long, yes there are boring parts, but there’s always something going on. Everywhere you look you’ll see someone doing something: running, jumping, throwing.

When heading to the actual meet itself, it’s always unpredictable when it comes to waiting for the bus, never knowing if it will be on time or an hour and a half late. Regardless of what time the bus comes, it’s always the same ride.

Usually it’s quiet and relaxed, but sometimes it can be talkative and energetic if people are feeling it. The track team is always quite large so we’re forced to sit together in the seats which no one ever enjoys. The ride into Boston is a little more than an hour, but we survive.

Finally stepping off the cramped, hot, uncomfortable bus, you’re greeted with a massive building which houses the “fastest track in the world”. After losing all of your energy walking up the excessive number of stairs to the entrance of the Track at New Balance, the only thing left to do is wait even longer.

When it’s finally time to start warming up for your event, most athletes follow the same routine: skip forward, skip backward, skip sideways, ground stretches, walking stretches, a-skips, which are more of a form based skip, accelerations, which are basically just quick sprints during warmups, etc. Warming up always means it’s almost time to get on the line.

Waiting for your event is when nerves really start to kick-in. If anyone says they’re not nervous before running, they’re lying. Everyone in the building experiences a mix of emotions; everyone wants to do well, wants their kid to do well, wants their team to do well.

When asked about what goes through her mind when watching: teacher, fan, and parent, Mrs.Kathy Norton says “As a parent I get excited, anxious and a bit stressed for my son as he is ready to run and while running….”

Knowing when your event is, is one of the most crucial parts of being a track athlete. You always have to pay attention to the announcements so you don’t miss your event. Hearing the call to the table to pick up your lane number is when the nerves officially start to set in. Walking to the line and getting into position is when you know it’s time to focus. Once the gun goes off everything disappears; the only thing to think about is crossing the line as fast as you can. It’s best to completely clear your mind of any distractions. A clear mind is a fast mind. When running I put my breathing pattern before anything else, slow and smooth breathing always relaxes my body.

“I focus on maintaining the perfect breathing pattern, the right amount of saliva in my mouth, the right way to set my feet.” said Senior Winter Track and Field Captain Colin Webber. Webber competes in the 600 meter race and the 4×400 meter relay.

After crossing the line for the final time in the race, peeling off to the infield and eventually onto the ground is always a love-hate relationship; you may be thankful that the race is over, but hating the way your body feels after running so fast. Your throat’s dry, your breathing heavy, you feel like you’re going to pass out.

Unless you have another event later on, the upside is that you can now relax. Many walk down the street and get pizza from Flatbread or a burger from Mainly Burgers. Food isn’t allowed in the track area itself, but people sneak it in or eat it outside while watching from afar.

Getting back on that cramped, hot, uncomfortable bus at 9 p.m. for another hour  on a Tuesday night is never enjoyable. Most kids like to doze off as best as they can, some eat a late dinner because they ran a relay, and some just relax and listen to music or watch something on their phone.

The only thing that can make the ride any better, is leaving with a win. A win only changes the mood of the ride home for as long as the kid with a speaker blasts their playlist while everyone is trying to sleep.

Seeing the familiar houses and recognizing the pattern of stops and turns brings a certain joy that only athletes understand. Finally arriving back at school after a long bus ride is a wonderful feeling. The only left to do is go home and get about 6 hours of sleep in preparation for the upcoming school day.