On the weekend of June 16, key members of the PHS spring track and field team will be put to their final test of the year at the 27th annual New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. High school track and field athletes from across the United States will compete in a variety of events to cement their legacies.
One of these student athletes will be Caren Ju ’18, who runs on the Super Sprint Medley Relay team at PHS. While there are about a dozen athletes from PHS competing in the meet, the team dynamic in the SSMR compared to individual events presents two different mindsets to the competition.
Ju, on the SSMR with Jackie Patterson ’18, Colleen Linko ’20, and Justice Taylor ’20, looks to end the year on a more relaxed note, taking Nationals as a less serious event than state tournaments such as the Meet Of Champions.
“It’s more of a fun experience to go and just to run, see how we’ve done, and show our work that we’ve put in. It’s like a little party at the end of the season — a little fun,” said Ju.
She attributes this notion to lower pressure on the team to place at Nationals.
“It’s so much less stressful. For sectionals, states, [and meets] like that, there’s a sort of expectation and pressure that you have [that] is relieved during Nationals, which makes it a lot more fun … There are so many more teams [that] are guaranteed to be faster than us,” Ju said.
These athletes competing in the SSMR require teamwork and coordination, where competitors will have to hand off batons to their teammates as they are running, sometimes without looking.
Conversely, some PHS athletes, such as Paul Brennan ’19, Will Hare ’18, and Alex Roth ’17, will be competing individually either on the track or in field events. For these individuals, they approach the meet with a more serious mindset.
“[With] every opportunity to go and [to] potentially win and become all-American, I’m not going to take that opportunity lightly,” said Hare. “It’s something that you never know if you’re going to get the opportunity to do that again, so I’m going to do everything I can to be prepared [for the race] … It’s been a goal since I started hurdle-work.”
Preparation for nationals entails the work and practice team members have been putting in for sectionals, counties, and the meet of champions. During the end of the spring season, when major meets often take place, track and field athletes prepare themselves to be in peak physical condition. Nationals falls toward the very end of the season, as the year begins to wind down.
“The others have been practicing for championships … and they aim to peak during those championships,” said Ju. “[So] when we go to nationals, it’s kind of falling towards the end of our peak.”
“We’ve been doing the same thing we do every season: tapering off the amount of miles we’re running. We’ve stopped lifting … in order to keep our legs fresh. It should be an easy week before [the] Meet of [Champions], [so we can] see how we do there and make necessary adjustments,” Hare said.
The athletes still stress the importance of the Meet of Champions, which happens the week before Nationals. Both Hare and Roth are running in events at the meet and still hope to place highly.
“There’s no using [the] Meet of [Champions] to prepare for anything else,” Hare said. “I’m going to try to place or [to] do what I can to run the best I can — to put myself in a position to hopefully medal or even [to] win. We’re going all in for [the Meet of Champions] week and all in for [the Nationals] week.”