After a long exciting season, the time has finally come: it is conference championships weekend! Given the family-like mentality it has taken for us to reach this point in the season and have the success we have had, I felt it would be insufficient to describe this weekend from a singular perspective. With that said, this blog is one that captures the emotions and feelings of my track family live from the track meet. I hope you enjoy!
Speaking with top conference qualifier Zack Lee, I had the chance to ask him, heading into the first day of conference, how he prepares himself mentally for competition: “I mentally prepare for competition by drinking a cup of tea, because drinking a cup of tea heats up your body and then you don’t need to worry about hurting yourself, I learned that in high school.” Jake Jarvis also is remaining relaxed heading into his first-ever conference championship; asked about what emotions he’s feeling, Jarvis said, “I thought I would be nervous before conference, but I’m actually quite excited; it’s only my third collegiate meet, so I haven’t had that much experience with competition at the collegiate level, so this will be a pretty good experience.”
Over the course of the season, many of us have had to overcome challenges and injuries to reach this stage. This remained true for Lee, who before this year hadn’t participated in a collegiate track meet since his senior year of high school and has also had to overcome injuries to his hamstring this year. Speaking on the subject, Lee said, “Track for me has probably been the most consistent thing I’ve done throughout my life since I stopped doing taekwondo when I was 14. I basically have been in track since I was 13 years old, so being away from it for so long was weird. Coach was talking about this horse in a stable ideology and it kind of feels like that, you just want to go compete but you have no release for it, but yeah it feels good to be back.” Talented sophomore thrower Abby Cannon has also fought through injuries to become one of the top throwers in the conference this year. Asked about what she hopes to accomplish at the conference meet, Cannon said, “Today at the meet I want to be proud of my performance and feel like I did everything I could do to be successful.”
While some battled through injuries, others had to overcome having limited experience competing this year. Third-year high jumper Aislinn Cannistraro returned from a semester away just a couple of weeks ago and has already put herself in a position to potentially qualify for nationals. Speaking on how she stayed ready while away from campus, Cannistraro said, “I tried to stay consistent with my workouts and maintaining my strength and working on improving little problems I have through physical therapy exercises. It feels good to be back, and I felt like I was in a good place coming back for winter term!”
Cannistraro is one of many Oberlin track athletes who have enjoyed success at a high level. Lee comes into the conference meet as one of the top-ranked jumpers in the NCAC. Asked if he feels any pressure being one of the top competitors in both of his events, Lee said, “I do feel some level of pressure being one of the higher-seeded people in both events, but that’s also sort of an exciting thing because it means if I do the right things and perform the way I should, I should place high, which is exciting. I’m pretty good at not thinking about that, though; I’ve been on both sides, I’ve been seeded last and seeded first, so I’m just going in trying to perform to my best ability. Luckily today that means if I do that I’ll win, some other days it doesn’t mean that, but yeah I’m just excited.”
Touching on the preparation that has gone on throughout the season and what it will take to maximize success at the meet, Sprint Coach Ben Wach said, “The great thing about the amount of work we have put in is that in order to maximize success all they have to do is what they’ve already done. If they show up and do the things they’ve practiced, as well as they have practiced them they’re gonna set PRs, they’re gonna beat their competition, and we’re gonna be very successful.” In terms of what advice he would give to the athletes competing today, Jumps Coach Ray Harris said, “Enjoy the moment and play hard! Be where your feet are.”
I’ll leave the last paragraph for the graduating seniors. Highly skilled pole vaulter Carter LaPointe talked to me about what emotions he is feeling heading into his final career indoor conference championship: “Feeling the love and respect of all of my past and current teammates. Waking up to texts from my best friends telling me 'good luck' and 'go kill it' makes it that much more important to me. I just want to leave a strong enough impact for those coming after me to continue that cycle of love and respect we have for each other.” Senior Captain Kofi Asare will be remembered for not only his amazing performances on the track, but also for how he supported his teammates. Before Friday’s meet, Asare said, “I’m on go! Nothing left to leave in the tank. God’s handled it all for me through it all, so no nerves, no stress… just joy. In terms of a message to my teammates: go ball and take what you deserve. We work too hard to give success up to someone else. We all care enough about this sport or we wouldn’t be here--so let’s rock out!”
Heading into conference championships we look to leave our mark on the NCAC; more importantly, over the course of the season we have come together as a family, and will most certainly treat the NCAC Conference Championships as a family event.
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November 5, 2022