For a vast majority of our population, running in circles has little appeal. Thus, track and field tends to get written off as a “lesser” sport — it lacks the constant action and spectacle that the typical American sports fan desires. Is track and field really just running, though? Senior sprinter-thrower Ellexi Snover, freshman jumper Matt Bowen and senior thrower Nash Howe beg to differ. For those who are convinced that track is “boring” or isn’t a true sport, here’s the real deal:
Bowen: “I think track tends to be underappreciated because a lot of people just don’t find running in circles interesting. Field events, especially, involve more standing and waiting than actual competition. People like action, but you can’t really understand the action and intensity on the track until you’ve been placed in our shoes.”
Snover: “There’s this preconceived notion that track is just running. There isn’t a giant following for the sport, either due to a lack of major competitions other than the Olympics; competitions also tend to last anywhere from four to 10 hours, and because people’s interests don’t always encompass every event, most wouldn’t stay and watch for that long. People just might not know how exciting different events can be.”
Howe: “Track tends to be superseded by larger, more historical team sports, like football or baseball. It’s one of those sports that most people pick up on in high school —there [are]n’t a significant number of young athletes competing in track as compared to soccer or baseball, for example. I honestly think that track is making a comeback here, though; it’s fairly visible at the Division-II national level now, and the competitiveness is getting more and more intense.”
From an outside perspective, track might seem monotonous, but this isn’t truly the case — it takes a wide range of strengths and talents to make a successful team.
Bowen: “Track athletes have a variety of strengths and weaknesses based on their event. It’s such a versatile sport in that sense. You have to be able to push through crazy amounts of pain, be it from the past 11 laps you ran as fast as you could or the pounding your legs just took from jumping repeatedly. Distance runners need some insane endurance while sprinters, jumpers and throwers need to be able to go from zero to 100 in a split second. If pushing your body physically and mentally to its limits every time you compete doesn’t qualify as a ‘real sport,’ I’d really like to see what those people consider a sport.”
Snover: “Sprinting is more than just running. It’s pushing your body to the most extreme limits — pushing your muscles to full capacity to move your body down the track faster than your competitors is certainly more challenging than your average mile jog. Being able to master block starts or correcting your form and technique to shave even just a tenth of a second off your time takes determination and drive. For anyone that claims it doesn’t require much skill, … try running down a 30-meter runway with a giant 13-foot pole in your hand and propelling yourself over a bar. That certainly takes skill, practice and focus. Every movement from the point you start your approach has to be correct.”
Bowen: “The mental side of track is huge, too. If you’re not confident in yourself when you step up to compete, chances are you’re going to have a bad day. Everyone is guilty of this at one point or another, but we all have to stay upbeat even if things don’t go our way. Mental strength is extremely important to improving, especially on days where you want to drop dead after practice.”
Howe: “In track, athletes truly push their bodies to the limit both mentally and physically. We train year-round, and each of our failures is a test of mental and physical perseverance that affects future success. Some of the most amazing athletes in the world compete in track and field, there’s no denying it — we have Usain Bolt, one of the single most recognizable athletes around the world.”
The strength of track athletes is undeniable — it just takes a basic knowledge of this strength and skill to appreciate the sport.
Bowen: “I think if people knew the amount of work every one of us puts in, they’d at least respect the sport more. As far as appreciation, I think it’s a hit or miss with people. Some people just enjoy other things, and that’s okay — track isn’t for everyone! Competing in the sport is easily the best way to appreciate it.”
Snover: “Because track is mostly based on marks, too, not having any knowledge of decent marks in each event can make it hard to understand what’s going on in a competition. For some events, like hammer throw, people who have never been involved in track wouldn’t have any idea what that event entails or what a hammer even is. I didn’t even know what one looked like until I got to college.”
Bowen: “My roommate once said we make it look so easy, but in reality, what we do is really hard. Anyone can sprint a short distance, jump into sand or throw a metal ball. To do all of these well, though, … that’s a different story.”
Snover: “Many might think track ‘isn’t a real sport’ because of how ‘anyone can do it’ because of the supposed ‘lack of skill’ it requires or because there seems to be no true competition with others. I say that everyone can physically run, yes. However, in track, you must have the mental and physical capacity to run, jump and throw with everything you have, the determination to fight through the pain of a race, the focus to maintain your skills and the drive to not break down when putting your body to those limits so you can fight with your competitors and win. Track is most definitely a sport, and anyone that doubts that can come try to do my practices for a week and tell me what they think afterward!”