Jan. 14, 2011
By Jon Cooper
– Georgia Tech’s track and field team doesn’t have a credo like the United States Postal Service, which proclaims that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Perhaps the team should adopt that credo, and include ice because — with no offense to the USPS — while there was no mail delivery in Atlanta all week following the snow and freezing rain of Sunday night/Monday morning, the track team never stopped running. That’s no small feat.
It’s a feat made greater considering there is no indoor facility in which to train on the Georgia Tech campus.
What the team had was incentive to compete — they’re participating in the Kentucky Invitational, which began Friday in Lexington — as well as innovative ideas to create improvisational practices, mostly inside Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
“We are fortunate that we are able to make use of the concourse level of the basketball coliseum,” said head women’s track coach Alan Drosky on Thursday afternoon. “On really cold days, particularly this week, and with the icy conditions outside, we’ve actually been doing a good bit of running inside there. It’s six laps to a mile.”
The idea of running inside AMC worked well with the men’s hoops team on the road and with the women’s games scheduled for the evening, although Thursday’s moved-up start to 4 from 7 p.m. did throw a wrench in the works.
Running at the Coliseum is not new. It’s a technique that the coach recalls from his days as a competitor on The Flats.
“I remember days where we were relegated to the Coliseum, and we just got in whatever work we could get in in the Coliseum,” recalled Drosky, who ran from 1985-87, was a three-time captain and a 1996 inductee into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame, who still holds school records for the indoor 1,000- and 1,500-meters and is part of the record-holding outdoor 4×1,600-meter relay team.
“In those days, the concourse was the same but now it’s carpeted and it’s actually pretty nice. Back in those days it was kind of a hard tile kind of flooring, which was very hard on your knees, on your ankles and on your feel. So we really limited what we did. So we do more now than what we used to do.”
Of course, some of the athletes just weren’t going to take no for an answer as far as training outdoors. Assistant coach Becky Megesi and a contingent went as far as shoveling off two lanes of the track. While shoveling is good cardio, it’s certainly not an exercise the team will be going to in future winters.
“For Coach Megesi and the guys who did it, I think it was an excellent workout, but I’d just assume find other ways to get workouts in,” said Drosky, with a laugh. “They took probably a good three hours to clear those lanes. They were just using the back, flat end of some big rakes that we use and were able to clear that, but it had already iced over. So it wasn’t a simple task by any means.”
Other members of the team, whose routines were altered by the icing of the grounds around Georgia Tech, didn’t have the options the runners did, but left to their own devices, found ways to train.
“The long jump, triple-jump, high jump, the vault are very much affected. The throws are very much affected,” said Drosky. “They come up with alternate workouts. Hurdlers might bring a couple of hurdles into the concourse. You can’t perform a full workout that you would normally do, but you work on little technical things or you might just work on the sprinting aspects. So folks might not be able to vault but they can come into the coliseum and work on some sprint work and so forth.
“If you’re an athlete and you’re faced with the prospect of missing a day of training, you come up with anything you can to try to get some work in.”
While the athletes controlled what they could control on their end, the coaching staff, specifically men’s head coach Grover Hinsdale, kept close watch on the roads and airport, making sure that getting to Lexington was a possibility. With weather warming ever so slightly, but enough to start melting the ice, and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport open, Drosky expected the team to make it in time to compete.
“We’re giving ourselves extra time. In the morning we’re leaving a little earlier than we would have,” he said. “Then we have a small group that flies up [Thursday night] that competes on Friday afternoon. So right now everything looks good with the airport, so I think everything is going to be fine.”
The team hoped to keep the momentum building coming off the positive showing at the Clemson Invitational. Whlle Drosky said that long-jumper Omar Morrison may not compete, as he’s nursing a minor injury, expectations are high for others, including high-jumper Mykhail Chambers, who won his event at Clemson, sprinter Perron Jones, who won the 200 meters and finished second in the 60, where he tied the school record (6.79 seconds), vaulters Joanna Wright and Erica Penk, who were first and third, and Aaron Unterberger, who is making his season debut, as well as several of the team’s hurdlers and distance runners.
“It was a good start last weekend,” he said. “This meet in Kentucky is a little bit of a step up in regard to competition, bigger schools than the Clemson meet. It’s a little bit of a higher quality of competition so we’re looking forward to putting ourselves right in the middle of that.”