Running, Jumping, Throwing: Track & Field Has Them All!

April 5th, 2014 | By Marjie No Comments

 

I fell in love with Track & Field in high school and I haven’t looked back since. My first season of track was as a freshman in high school. That’s when my coaches realized I had potential. They convinced me to quit cheerleading and try cross country in the fall instead, and I am so happy I listened to them! Since then, I have been a distance runner at heart and had the opportunity to become a scholarship athlete at the collegiate level. Track & Field has taught me discipline and helped me realize what it feels like to truly enjoy everything about a sport. I can’t imagine my life without it.

Track & Field is a special sport because it provides an event for everyone to try and possibly excel at. If you have speed, try sprinting. If you have strength and power, try shot put or discus. There are also triple jump, javelin, pole vault, hammer throw, and much more.

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All sports require hard work and dedication, but Track & Field events are unique because a majority of them require that you compete individually. Athletes often race, throw, or jump against their own teammates during a track meet. They all work together to gain points for their team while also competing against each other individually. This aspect of the sport is difficult because it requires humility and mental toughness, even after a disappointing performance. As I explain more about Track & Field, I am hopeful that you will begin to realize what a rewarding experience it can offer.

You might wonder how one becomes interested in competing in a Track & Field event. Many come across the sport in high school because it provides such a wide variety of activities. Almost anyone can find an event they are good at and enjoy. Former swimmers or soccer players often do running events because of their great endurance base. Football players often try throwing events because of their extreme upper body strength. Gymnasts and cheerleaders usually excel at pole vault since it resembles tumbling. Even “non-athletes” can usually find something in Track & Field that appeals to them, just as Carlos does in our Seasons: Part 4 (page 46 in this issue). As you can see, there is an event for everyone in Track & Field. As I share details about each event offered, I hope you are able to find one you’d like to try!

To start off, let’s talk about jumping events. This category includes long jump, high jump, triple jump, and pole vault. To be a good jumper, you need speed, strength, and mental endurance. Often, athletes will do a combination of these events since they require similar strength. The details behind each event are pretty self-explanatory based on the name of each event.

  • As a long jumper, you run down a runway, then jump into a sand pit when you reach the white line. If you cross the white line with your foot, your jump will not count and will be considered a ‘foul.’ Once you land in the sand pit, meet officials will measure the distance of your jump. Whoever jumps the farthest wins!
  • Triple jump is similar to long jump, but has the added complication of several more steps. You must take off and land on the same foot. The first phase is a hop, the second is step, and the third is jump. The key is to start with the stronger foot and end with it as well. Your jump will be measured once you land in the sand pit.
  • High jump is a very technical event because the goal is to jump as high as possible without knocking the bar down. Once your body is in the air, the key is lifting your hips, which allows your legs to lift as well. The winner is the person who is able to jump the highest without knocking the bar down. Jumping events are tough because they require a type of strength that many of us do not possess; however, you might have natural spring in your legs that would make for a talented jumper!

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It is amazing to see how far athletes can throw during a throwing event in Track & Field. The throwing events include hammer, discus, shot put, and javelin:

  • Hammer throwers must have immense speed in the spin, which requires major leg strength. They spin to generate speed prior to the throw and the speed of that throw determines the distance the hammer will go.
  • Discus throwers also spin prior to the throw. They spin to generate speed, then hurl the metal piece as far down the field as they can. Strength, agility, and balance all come into play as the discus thrower launches the metal plate into the air.
  • Shot putters do not spin, although they do have a turn in their throwing motion. The shot put is a brass or iron ball of 7.26 kg for men and 4 kg for women. It is thrown, or “put,” with one hand only and must be in close proximity to the athlete’s neck or chin as the throw begins. It cannot drop below that position once the athlete begins to throw.
  • The javelin, a spear consisting of a metal head, shaft, and a cord grip, is a dangerous object. It is thrown over the shoulder into a grass field. No spinning is permitted in this event and in order for the throw to count the metal tip of the spear must break the ground. In any given throwing event, the athlete who throws the farthest wins.

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The running events in Track & Field vary in distances and/or obstacles, and include hurdles, steeplechase, middle distance, distance, and sprints.

  • Hurdles require speed and flexibility so athletes can glide over the hurdles without slowing down. They can knock down hurdles while jumping over them (but not intentionally). Hurdle events are run at three distances: 400 meters, 110 meters, and 100 meters. All three distances include 10 hurdles which are evenly spaced throughout the track.
  • Steeplechase, a 3000-meter race consisting of 28 hurdle jumps and seven water jumps, is a grueling event requiring a diverse set of skills. Leslie Boozer, a standout steeplechase runner at The University of Georgia says, “To be successful in this event you have to be mentally and physically tough, fit, and skilled with technique.” This event requires distance running, hurdling, and long jumping all in one race. “To improve in the steeplechase, routinely doing hurdle drills as well as constantly working on improving your fitness is a major key to success,” says Boozer.
  • Middle distance running events include the 800-meter, 1500-meter, and the mile. They require endurance as well as speed and are often very difficult to run. In order to succeed at these distances, one must learn how to run tactical races. The distance events consist of the 3000-meter, 5000-meter, and 10,000-meter races. They are the longest running events offered on the track and require an extreme amount of endurance. The 10,000-meter race consists of running 25 laps around a 400-meter track and 12.5 laps for the 5,000-meter race.
  • Sprinting events consist of races in the following distances: 60 meters, 100 meters, 200 meters, and 400 meters, all requiring speed and agility. Sprinters start on a starting block, which requires them to get low to the ground and allow for a quick start in hopes of running a fast time. Athletes who run sprinting events often compete in multiple races during a meet. For example, running the 200-meter and 400-meter races is a common double for sprinters of those distances.
  • The decathlon and heptathlon are multi-sport events in Track & Field. Men compete in the decathlon, which consists of 10 events, while women compete in the heptathlon with seven events. Athletes compete over a course of two days and get only 30 of minutes rest between each event. Lucie Ondraschek, a top SEC heptathlete at the University of Georgia says, “In the heptathlon, it is important to be very consistent in all events since every event tests different skills. You need to spend the same amount of work on all of them.”

As you can see, Track & Field consists of many events that range in distance and technique and appeals to a variety of people. If you are interested in trying these sports, check out these local organizations: Spirit NE Track Club, Athens Road Runners, Sirius Athletics, and Athens Youth Academy Track & Field Club.

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