BY MAEVE MCKAIG —
The state track and field meet is quickly approaching, athletes beginning their preparations for the trip to La Crosse on June 3 and 4.
In her first high school track season, Greta Maierle, freshman, is an alternate on the girls 4x800 relay. She has noticed a shift in practice as the state meet approaches.
“I think [Sarah Kopplin, assistant coach,] is definitely more focused on state and there’s a little bit more pressure,” Maierle said. “I would definitely say I’m more motivated to run faster because for being in a relay, you want to do well for your team because they’re all impacted by [your race].”
Josh Melton, junior, runs the 200 meter race, 4×200 meter relay, 400 meter and 4×400 meter relay.
“Right now, the general feeling toward state is that we have to get there first. We have regionals on [May 23], sectionals on [May 26] and if any of us have a bad race, that’s it,” Melton said.
Melton said that the level of intensity at practice is increasing.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re nervous, but we all are just anticipating it. I mean, we’re checking times every day, we’re doing everything we can. I wouldn’t say everyone is on edge, but we’re just really trying to get there … that’s all we’re thinking about,” Melton said.
Cole Baumann, junior, runs the 4×800 meter relay, 800 meter and the mile run. This year, he is confident about qualifying but is already starting to worry about the big race.
“I feel like I’m going to make it. In the past, I had doubts about making it, but this year I’ll make it [but] obviously I’m nervous about it,” he said.
Although she sees older athletes feeling the pressure, Maierle said she does not feel affected by it.
“Being a freshmen, I don’t feel like I’m putting pressure on myself just because I don’t have any expectations since this is my first season,” Maierle said.
As a junior, Melton has a different perspective.
“Yes, there’s a lot of pressure. I’m feeling a lot of pressure because this is [the rest of the relay’s, made of D’Anthony Maans, Jake Woyak and Ari Schermer, seniors,] last year and I’m the young one out of the four of us. Everyone has to play their part but I don’t want to be the reason that they don’t get to go to state their senior year. But there’s a lot of pressure on everyone just to perform at a high level,” Melton said.
If she qualifies, this year will be Morgan Florsheim’s, senior, fourth year going to state in the mile and 2-mile. Based on her experience for the past three years, she also said the state meet brings a different mentality.
“There’s definitely a mental aspect just because it’s the biggest meet that we go to. It’s a stadium and the stadium is full. Usually we have like ten people at our meets, so that’s a big difference for sure,” Florsheim said.
Baumann, who went last year as an alternate on the 4×800 meter relay, agrees.
“Our coaches try to get us to forget that separate mentality but … the whole state is watching,” Baumann said.
Florsheim said she hopes this state experience will be different than her previous ones.
“In past years, I’ve definitely felt pressure. I think mostly I put it on myself because I want to do well. I think this year is a little different since I’ve been coming back from an injury, so I’m hoping that I can approach it in a more positive way and not have so much stress about it, just be happy. If I’m able to get there, to be there and enjoy it. It’s the last one,” Florsheim said.
Maierle observed that the upper classmen she looks up to are very collected before stressful races.
“I think the [upperclassmen athletes] get a little less nervous than me before meets. They’re more experienced and calm and collected. I think they’re motivated too because they have less years left to get to state,” Maierle said. “They’re inspiring.”
Dominic Newman, head coach, has observed over the years how athletes are affected by pressures to compete well.
“I see [the pressure put on athletes] across the board,” he said. “It’s pretty individual. With some athletes, it’s more the physical pressure that they put on themselves and how they internalize it. With some athletes it’s more psychological and they have to deal with it that way. “
Kopplin said that she thinks athletes put the most pressure on themselves.
“I feel like the person that will put the most pressure on themselves is the athlete. By and large, the most pressure is going to come from an internal source,” Kopplin said. “I think the best way to deal with that pressure is to keep an open mind with why [they are] doing this. ‘What about this do I enjoy?’”
As a coach, Newman said he knows that a team is made up of individuals.
“Each student is different. Some need a little more guidance, some a little less,” Newman said.
Melton said that he deals with the pressure by running.
“Running actually works pretty well. For me at least, when I feel the pressure of it all, going to practice and running is a huge relief from that,” Melton said.
Both coaches emphasized the importance of perspective regarding each race.
“Making it to state is not the only outcome that matters. Being able to have an experience where you can say, ‘I was mentally and physically prepared, and I literally had the best performance possible,’ that’s the greatest feeling to have,” Kopplin said.
Newman added that a great athlete looks at every race as a learning opportunity.
“If you got disqualified in your event, that’s okay. Did you learn something? You can always take something positive from that,” Newman said. “There’s always a learning opportunity, even if you took last. You can always learn something from that.”
“At the end of the day, coaches and parents try to help the athletes put into perspective what really matters,” Kopplin said.