A CalBears.com Blog by Alison Greggor and Collin JarvisWelcome to the Cal track & field blog - In Stride. Throughout the 2011 Golden Bear season, distance runners Alison Greggor and Collin Jarvis will be providing exclusive insights into the team. Make sure you check the blog regularly for updates and information about Cal track & field.
Greggor is a senior from Novato double majoring in psychology and Spanish. Entering her final campaign, she ranks as Cal's seventh-fastest performer all-time in the 5000 meters (16:25.88) and fifth fastest at 10,000 meters (34:37.01). A sophomore from Vista, Jarvis is still early in his collegiate career and has yet to declare his major. He was a key member of the Cal cross country team that qualified for the NCAA Championships this past fall and, as a freshman on the track, became the No. 9 performer in the 3000 meters in school history (8:14.63).
May 25, 2011 - A Last Chance
Finals are over, graduation is over, and my last track season as a Cal Bear is rapidly coming to an end.
Despite my sadness in knowing that this season must end eventually, I could not be more excited for what's ahead. Today (Tuesday), the qualifying members of the track team arrived in Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Western Regional meet this weekend. For those of us who are here, we must finish in the top 12 of our event in order to proceed to the big show - the NCAA finals. The beauty of this system is that it requires every individual to fight and fiercely compete for a spot to move on. Track & field could not be more exciting as in this do-or-die situation. It turns each height of the vertical jumps into a possible season-ending elimination, each throw and horizontal jump into an opportunity at NCAAs and each running heat into a tactical battle.
Not only does the format of this meet create an intense atmosphere, but also its location gives the entire event an electric feeling. Eugene is known as "Track Town, USA" and the reasons for this are evident in the large number of track fans that flock to the area for any big meet. Undoubtedly, the stands will be packed for each one of the elimination rounds that occur this weekend, only adding to the excitement.
Possibly facing the end of my collegiate career, I could not be more excited to have the opportunity to battle in the true spirit of & and field such in a historic place for the sport. I know that my teammates and I often have our proudest moments wearing the uniform when we are in these types of situations and this weekend will be no different.
May 4, 2011 - A Balancing Act
We're now reaching the time of the year when the track athletes have to shine in their multi-tasking skills. This past weekend was a prime example. Many on the team competed at the Payton Jordan Invitational on Sunday amidst a flurry of final papers, impending review sessions and presentations. While most of us on the team are used to juggling academics and athletics on a weekly basis, our ability to do so always gets tested at the end of the year. Unfortunately Pac-10's always lies in the middle of finals. Everyone wants to peak come championship season, but this becomes doubly difficult when you also have to peak in your academics at the same time. Each year, many of my teammates have to take finals on the road hours before their events or plead with professors to allow an alternate examination time.
So while most students are solely focused on getting through finals, we are preparing both mentally and physically for the most important competitions of our season and for some of us, of our career. And while the track athletes at many other schools have pressure to perform well at conference, they do not they have to balance finals at the same time, nor do they face the challenges of academic rigor that Cal offers. But that's what we are as Cal student-athletes; we are champion multi-taskers. As Athletic Director Sandy Barber often says, we come to Cal because we want it all - the pinnacle of world-class athletics and academics. And although it is certainly a challenge to succeed in both the classroom and out on the track and field, I am always impressed by the calm and collected demeanor in which my teammates manage to pull off both.
So, to my fellow teammates, good luck studying. To my fellow Bears, know that we will be prepared come championship season.
April 25, 2011 - The Magic Number
There are certain events in a runner's career that define the type of athlete he will become. This of course, is not exclusive to one particular event. It could be going under 14:00 in the 5k for the first time, running sub 1:50 in an 800, or even just running at the collegiate level. But there has always been one benchmark that is universally recognized and sticks out among runners: sub 4:00 in the mile.
In Cal's school history, only six men have managed to crack it. One of which was Don Bowden, the first American to EVER do it. In fact, there have been less than 360 Americans to do it. The exclusivity of the sub-4 miler club is tremendous, and because of that, highly respected.
On Saturday at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational, I, along with three other men of Berkeley, toed the line in the Don Bowden Mile, trying to capture that elusive 4:00. Two of the four, Michael Coe and Steve Sodaro, have already broken the barrier. For Jordan Locklear and me, it was our first serious attempt. If you were at the meet, you would have heard the crowd roaring as Michael Coe came down the homestretch in first, just before he crossed the line in 4:00.07, turning the cheers into groans. So close. Naturally, when the four of us realized that no one had broken four, we were a little disappointed. But our head coach Tony Sandoval reassured us that, "The Roman Empire wasn't built in a day, and neither is a world class athlete." There will be another day to chase the elusive 4:00, but for now it's back to work.
April 13, 2011 - Do It for the Seniors
Last night (Tuesday) was the Big C Senior Banquet - a special night for all seniors in the athletic department. Ever since I received my invitation months ago, I have been hearing from people that have attended in the past that it is their favorite event of the year. I now understand why. Apart from the delicious food and good company, it was a chance to reflect on all of our accomplishments over the past four or five years. As the seniors from each team stood and were acknowledged for their athletic achievement during their Cal careers, it really hit home that we are almost finished. We have a large collection of extremely talented seniors this year, all of whom have contributed to the team dynamic in a unique yet beautiful way.
This opportunity to reflect on Cal history and appreciate our time here came at a timely moment for the seniors of the track team because the Big Meet is this weekend. Historically, the Big Meet is more than just one of the few longstanding dual meets left in the country, but a rite of passage and hopefully a means of bragging rights for any Cal Bear. It is where any member of the team can distinguish him or herself with an unexpected performance or display of heart. Still to this day, we hear stories of past team members going above and beyond what was expected to miraculously clinch the meet. It is dream that every athlete hopes to achieve.
While the whole team will be competing with our teeth bared, the seniors especially will be fighting for our last chance of glory, our last opportunity to say we beat Stanford, our last chance to make a little history of our own. Because sadly, each of us knows that next year the best we can do is cheer from the stands. While that may sound melancholy, the resounding message from last night was not that we should be sad that our Cal careers are ending, but that we are simply taking a different role as part of the Cal family. Through support by organizations like the Big C Society, the Cal spirit will continue for classes to come.
Until that time, however, we seniors have a few fights left in us!
April 6, 2011 - Rising Temperatures and Intensity
As soon as the sun finally comes out after the winter's rain and the temperature heats up out at Edwards Stadium, it feels like track season. Monday's practice was a prime example. It's my favorite day of practice of the week. On the distance side, we always have our Developmental Warm-up, which means the whole distance team is out there, weaving in and out of the lanes.
What I love most about Mondays, though, is getting to see all of the other event groups work out, too. Men's and women's sprints usually have hard days on Mondays, and so there's always someone attacking lane 1 or coming in hot over the hurdles. You always have to stay alert for the stray javelin or discus flying from the throws practice. The high jumpers, long jumpers and pole vaulters are always out doing drills or hurtling down the runways.
Despite all of the separate workouts going on at once, what I love about being out there is that no matter what anyone is doing, as soon as they hit the track or go for a high bar, all heads look up and offer support. Whether its Keena Kohl cheering for Cherrelle Garrett as she hits a turn hard or a round of applause as Brian Carmichael clears a bar in the high jump, there's a sense of lighthearted encouragement in the air. Sometimes you'll be lucky enough to get a smirk and a nod from Coach Miller amidst a throws workout - then you know you're doing something right!
This Monday, however, was especially full of energy. Not only were people excited about the warm weather, but the Big Meet is on the horizon (April 16 at Stanford). When we get to Big Meet time, the overall intensity and team spirit on the track rises. With so few dual meets left in the track & field world, our century-long rivalry against Stanford is all the more important. What makes a dual meet so alluring is that you need every event group to hold its own. It is a measure not of your superstars, but of your team as a whole. This year is going to be close on both the men's and women's sides, and everybody knows it.
For those going and competing at Texas Relays this weekend, the upcoming Big Meet is in the back of their minds. For those staying here and hitting hard workouts, we're imagining the ugly red jersey coming down the last 100 meters so we can kick it down just before the line.
If this Monday was any indication of our team as a whole, then it is safe to say we are fit, hungry and waiting for next weekend.
- Alison Greggor
March 28, 2011 - The Greatest Glory
On night of Friday the 25th, the Bears' distance crew made the trek across the bay to that other school - you know, the Red one - for the Stanford Invitational. It was, to say the least, a quiet caravan over to the Cardinal's home. Everyone was getting focused for their quickly approaching 5 or 10-kilometer races, and this preparation is usually spent battling doubts and controlling the emotions within, so the silence was to be expected. There were so many things to think about, too many thoughts blending together - Where should I be in relation to people in my race? How fast should each lap be? Is the weather going to be horrible? What should I do if I win? What if I lose? What am I going to eat after I race? I hope its pizza ...
These thoughts are incredibly annoying, but unfortunately quite common for the first race of any season. As I left the van and headed over the track with my teammates, Maxime Chevee, and Cody and Simon Schimdt, my head seemed like it was moving further and further from the track, as much as I knew it shouldn't be. It was an awkward feeling to have the mind be wandering in such an intense environment, but I did my best to draw it back to the moment.
As the time passed, races started and the Bears veterans ran with incredible poise. I watched from the sidelines, and my mentor Steve Sodaro came out and opened his season with a 3:47 in the 1500. Next, Rowena Tam started her season with a personal best, at 16:35 in the 5000. Immediately following these races, Cody and Simon left for their warm ups, and it was down to Maxime and I as spectators.
7:35 p.m. rolled around, and Cody and Simon toed the line for their 5k section race. The gun sounded, and they started. The gun also meant it was time for Maxime and I to begin our warm up. As we jogged around the warm-up field a couple of hundred meters from the track, we desperately listened for the faint sound of the announcer calling off the position of the runners from the Schmidt brothers' race. After a couple minutes, it became apparent that this strategy to hear about the race wasn't working, so we concentrated on the strides instead.
At 8:40 p.m., Maxime and I had made it to the track and were doing our final preparations for our section. The darkness of night had set in, as had the cold. It was a great night to run a 5k, or at least that's how it seemed. After the first mile of 4:23, I had a pretty good idea of how the rest of the race was going to go. I did my best to ignore that idea and just run, but it was inevitable - my legs were not ready for the 5k on this Friday night.
When I came across the finish line and saw the clock read 14:10, I had a surge of thoughts rush into my head: Wow did this happen? What did I do wrong? Why here? 18th place!? The walk back to the rest of the team was almost as painful as the race itself. Friends, coaches and teammates trying to reassure that it wasn't a bad race was the last thing I wanted to hear at that moment. I wanted to be left alone.
But when I got back to where my things were another thought came into mind - this one much more reassuring than the others. It was of a quote that I try to live by, which is "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we do." Almost immediately after I remembered the true meaning of this idea, I felt better. Bad races happen to everyone, but what sets the great athletes apart from the average ones is the ability to come back stronger from these painful experiences.
I looked around at my fellow Bears Cody, Simon and Maxime, and realized that even though they all had bad races, too, they were already ready to get going again for the next one. They all already had the mindset of rising from this slight fall. All I could do was smile, put on some warm clothes, start my cool down run, and look forward to redemption.
- Collin Jarvis
March 17, 2011 - Tony Enzyme
Each Monday afternoon, the distance group sits down for our weekly meeting before practice. We usually go over the training matrix for the week ahead and any updates on recruits. Last week was a little different because we had a special "guest." Head coach Tony Sandoval left to get our guest and in walked Tony Enzyme; a professional baseball, basketball, football ... well he hadn't really made up his mind, but he was an athlete. While the majority of the team couldn't help giggle at our special guest's Jamaican-Spanish-Cuban accent, he did come with an important message. He came to talk about the inner-drive, the passion for sport that makes great athletes great. For any athlete, that drive is what makes you get up in the morning, push through those hard workouts, and embrace the week upon week of hard training. Not even the greatest coach can create this passion in their athlete. It has to come from inside the athlete. The role of the coach, as Tony Enzyme reminded us, is to act exactly as his name implies; as the enzyme for an athlete's drive. While Coach Sandoval let us have a little laugh at his expense, he also inspired some of that drive that sits in all of us.
March 2, 2011 - Here We Go
With our first outdoor meet coming up this weekend, this week is a period of transition and reflection on the indoor season. For those of us who PR'd and have qualified to NCAA's, it is a sign that all of the winter's hard work has paid off. Congratulations to our three MPSF conference champions and to all those who scored, or who hit indoor and lifetime bests (you can read all about it in the press release). However, for those of us who fell short of that goal, be it for injury, sickness, or whatever, the end of the indoor season feels a little bittersweet. Our job now is to find that extra motivation, to turn our disappointment into fuel and strive for more outdoors. Each season is a fresh start and this weekend is no different. We're starting it hungry for more.
- Alison Greggor