May 14, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
In some ways it seems so long ago, but it really wasn’t that far back that the Georgia Tech’s women’s track and field squad was in so very different a place that student-athletes might have felt like they were competing in different sports.
It was just February, after all, and the indoor season was wrapping up with a 14th-place finish at Virginia Tech for the ACC Indoor Championships.
As the ACC Outdoors Championships begins today at Florida State’s Mike Long Track, the Yellow Jackets appear on track to fare better.
Head coach Alan Drosky has geared workouts more for this than the indoor season.
Senior Morgan Jackson will compete in the 800 and 1,500 meters, and she feels good not only about her prospects but those of the entire team.
“Some coaches train you to peak almost at all meets. Coach Drosky is training us to peak outdoors,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t want us to just cut down [mileage] and taper for ACCs, but also regionals and NCAAs. We have done a little tapering, but not a lot.
“We’ve had some pretty tough workouts that kind of correlate to the idea that if you can work out this fast, you can run this fast [in competition]. I think that at conference it will all come together.”
Several Jackets are on the ACC’s watch list.
Freshman Bailey Weiland has turned in top five efforts in the high jump this spring when measured against her conference peers, and senior Samantha Becker has been similarly successful in the pole vault.
Distance runners Katie Townsend, Melissa Fairey and Kelly Meyer figure to factor in the 10,000 meters, and sprinters Jamilah Middlebrooks, Ama Larbi and Shannon Innis will look to score along with the 4×400-meter relay team of Jazmyne Taylor, Domonique Hall, Innis and Christina Pensock.
There is a difference between the way athletes train for different events.
Where many distance runners dial back on their mileage prior to a big meet, much like swimmers, sprinters often take a more steady approach.
As a vaulter, Becker goes the other route altogether. She, in fact, peaked at the ACC indoors, finishing eighth with a personal-record vault of 13 feet, ½ inch.
She has recently jumped all in rather than roll back, and that’s been easier to do for the past couple weeks with class out.
“Now that we have so much time on our hands, we’ve been working our butts off,” Becker said. “Pole vaulting is an incredibly mental sport . . . You can be completely prepared and then psyche yourself out. The way to get over that is in practice; focus on all the details so that in a meet you don’t think about all that.
“The pole vault is so fast. You’re on the runway, and then you’re in the pit. You’re done. I can only think about one thing, maybe to run faster or get my arm up.”
With just a few weeks before she begins a summer internship consulting with DeLoitte, Jackson has used her time differently as well. Out of their dorms, the Jackets have spent more time together. That’s a good thing.
“I’m at the point where my next race I need to just crush my PR; I’m ready for it,” said the biomedical engineering major. “Everybody is really excited. It’s extremely weird. You have done the whole year with classes. It’s less stressful, but at the same time you feel a little less organized.
“We have a lot of free time, and we’re trying to do the right things, do the things that are good for running.”
For Becker, a civil engineering major with a focus on environmental science who next month will go to India for about a month to work on a project to explore the prospects of testing water quality through crowd sourcing in villages, the recent training schedule has been weird and wonderful.
“I think that everyone who [has been] here, who is practicing, has an end game like, `I want to go to nationals,'” she said. “Everyone is a lot more focused because you don’t have to worry about school.
“There is a better team dynamic. We’re staying in a hotel for five or six days, going to meals together. It’s a lot more team focused.”