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Track and field looking to capitalize on familiarity in outdoor season

Track and field looking to capitalize on familiarity in outdoor season

Senior Eddie Wilcox competes in the high jump during the Conference USA Championships. Jimmy Wilcox | Conference USA

Track and field looking to capitalize on familiarity in outdoor season
March 11
10:48 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

With a fourth place men’s finish and a tenth place result for the women, Mean Green track and field’s indoor season came to a close at the Conference USA Championships on Feb. 24 and 25. Now, the teams look forward to the second half of its season – a luxury most sports don’t have.

The biggest challenge of the indoor season is adjusting to different sized tracks and facilities, which newcomers sometimes struggle with, especially since team practices are held outside at Fouts Field. But now that outdoor season is set to begin, head coach Carl Sheffield said he sees the new venue as an advantage.

“They’re much more comfortable [outdoors],” Sheffield said. “When you do it every day, then that’s what you get used to. Your whole vision of how you run on a track is going to be built on what you do every day in practice.”

Although the weather factor is controlled in indoor competitions, they come with various challenges. For runners, indoor tracks are only half the size those outdoors, often having banked turns that aren’t as wide as some may prefer.

Bigger and taller runners sometimes have trouble staying in their lane, which can have a big effect on their overall times, even when their scores are converted to match a standard track.

“Running full speed into a banked curve and having to go up and around it, and it’s also tight, just kind of mentally plays games with you,” junior sprinter Collin Heard said. “There’s some younger people that struggle with it, because in high school you’re not really running on banked curves. You’re just running outdoors.”

Throwers are also limited during indoor season. Sheffield and his staff make strides to prepare each aspect of the team for the limitations of indoor events, but senior thrower Tori Clark said being outdoors feels a lot less confined and puts her and the team in their comfort zone.

During shot put, throwers only have a choice of two ball sizes compared to four in outdoor season, which can be a detriment for some Mean Green athletes.

“I feel like if the ball is too big, I don’t have enough control of it,” Clark said. “I don’t have enough push off it as I like. Sometimes it just kind of slips off the back of my hand, so I don’t get the full effect of the throw that I want.”

The team’s biggest goal was to participate in the national indoor championships, but not qualifying has allowed the Mean Green to spend a couple of weeks to both physically and mentally recover. During that span, players have gotten a chance to focus on the fundamentals of their specific events without having to worry about the pressures of competition.

“This was the first time that we got a chance to train for five days in a row,” Sheffield said. “We were always leaving. We were always competing. To be able to sleep in your bed for a whole week, eat normal for a whole seven days and train on your track for five days without any interruptions was really good.”

The majority of the North Texas roster will return for the indoor season, including a group of accomplished veterans. Senior high jumper Eddie Wilcox set a personal best for the first time since his freshman year at the indoor C-USA championships, posting a 2.17-meter jump to earn a first-place finish.

After finishing fifth as a team at indoors in 2014 and improving to fourth this season, Wilcox said he’s confident the Mean Green can send the senior class out on a high note in the outdoor season.

“We’re gradually moving up,” Wilcox said. “As long as we keep having our demeanor about ourselves of wanting to win and to get better in practice, I think we’ll do great.”

Featured Image: The track and field team is transitioning to the outdoor half of the season. File Photo

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