Train. Eat. Compete.

Steve Voicik

Girls on the track team prepare for this weekend’s MAC tournament.

Laura Torchia | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Here was the scene in and around the Kent State Field House last weekend: Athletes sprawling around the infield, studying and sleeping amid the clamor, which included the occasional bang from the starter’s gun. Athletes eating granola bars, crackers and bananas. Athletes stretching and competing. Packs of athletes running in the slush and snow around Dix Stadium.

The athletes are always training, always preparing.

They are always doing something to better the likelihood of achieving the team’s pre-season goals: Win the Mid-American Conference Championship and send a strong contingent of athletes to the NCAA Championships.

“The fitness level of these athletes in such a performance-driven sport is amazing,” coach Bill Lawson said. “Track and field is about pushing your limits as far as they can possibly go.”

Athletes have trained since the summer months in preparation for the indoor and outdoor track seasons. And with the indoor MAC Championships taking place in Akron today and tomorrow, Lawson and his assistant coaches have increasingly intensified workouts.

In order to keep the athletes fresh and ready for this weekend’s tournament, coaches decreased the volume of workouts and raised the intensity level, both mental and physical.

“This week will help prepare the kids for the heightened competition they will face this weekend. We expect our kids to be at peak performance and to be mentally ready as well,” assistant coach Mark Croghan said Wednesday. Coaches and athletes stressed the importance of mental focus as the arrival of the MAC Championships neared.

“The week of the Championships will be about getting the proper technique down and getting into the right mindset and focusing,” junior sprinter Nick Ivancic said after the meet last Saturday.

A proper diet is also imperative to the team’s success. Complex carbohydrates and protein, which are found in such foods as pasta and eggs, are staples of a track athlete’s diet. Graduate assistant coach Angie German said the team also eats whole-wheat foods and whole grains. German said the team tries to avoid consuming high sugar foods, fatty foods, and deep-fried foods, as they are harder for the body to digest.

High sugar foods spike one’s energy level and subsequently drop it below the initial level, slowing the body.

Eating properly can be difficult, especially when the team is on the road. However, senior sprinter Stephanie Hunt said that when traveling, the team makes frequent stops.

“For lunch it is usually Subway, but for dinner we try to stop somewhere that serves Italian food,” Hunt said.

Foods such as peanut butter and jelly and bananas are also cornerstones of a track athlete’s diet. Peanut butter provides protein, and bananas provide potassium, both sources of effective energy.

Hunt, a nursing major, understands how the body functions. She tries to eat red meat the night before an event because it gives her iron and helps her feel more energized the day of her event.

Hydration is also vital. Water is best prior to an event, but team members warned that too much water may filter electrolytes out of the blood stream. Athletes drink Gatorade and Powerade, which are most effective during or immediately following an intense workout or meet.

Lawson said electrolytes give the body energy and keep muscles functioning properly.

The women’s team has had some key losses in recent years. It finished seventh of 12 teams at last year’s MAC championships, but Lawson remains optimistic.

“We’ve made tremendous progress, both the men and the women. We are becoming more consistent as we are moving closer to the MAC championships and nationals,” Lawson said.

Hunt competes in the 4×400-meter relay, the 400-meter dash and the 200-meter dash and has one thing on her mind as the championships approach.

“I’m in it to win it. I need to get out hard and run a clean, consistent race,” Hunt said.

The men’s team placed second in the MAC championships a year ago. This season, their upperclassmen have provided good leadership, Lawson said, and have filled some spots in both the pole vault and sprints.

“Our program is far ahead of where it was a year ago, from our philosophy as a coaching staff to the physical performance of our athletes,” Lawson said.

Contact track and field reporter Steve Voicik at [email protected].