Autumn Zierman – Staff Writer
With the beginning of Spring semester, Track and Field are off to the literal races. Both Men’s and Women’s Track and Field returned this past weekend, on Saturday February 6, to compete in the first Round Robin style meet of the season against Bethany Lutheran College.
Both teams held strong this weekend, with the Men’s team besting Bethany Lutheran and the Women’s team trailing just behind. Individually, the months without competition have given students opportunities to practice and improve that paid off this weekend. Most notably, Taylor Rooney, Senior on the Men’s team, blew through the school’s record in the 60m hurdles in a personal best time, placing him first nationwide in Division III and awarding him the MIAC student of the week award.
“[Competition] felt pretty good. We have been working a lot for competition and it was nice to be back after almost a year,” Junior Steven Orzoleck said.
Orzoleck continued the race to success with a first-place victory in shot put, and looking forward to a season without nationals, hopes to get things improved, especially in preparation for the outdoor season.
The return to competition was equally well received on both sides.
“Having the meet really helped team spirit— having returners compete again— it was strange and a little more distant, but the energy was still the same,” Senior Rachel Studer said.
“It was really fun to see everyone having a goal to work towards,” Senior Paige Patterson said.
Indeed, it is the common drive to return to both normalcy and competition that pushed the Track and Field team back into competition this weekend, overcoming a plethora of hurdles in their everyday lives to ensure that competition is possible.
“Everyone has done a bang-up job of following COVID regulations. They are all pulling their weight to compete, waking up early to test and wearing masks at all times that aren’t competition level exertion. It all takes a tremendous amount of discipline and scheduling,” Head Coach Aaron Lund said.
The same gratitude from coaches for the student’s hard work is echoed back.
“We have all been working hard, especially the coaches, and it is really great to see our hard work on the track,” Senior DeAnna Giles, writer for The Weekly said.
These extra measures and months of lost competition have also driven the team to take advantage of whatever opportunities they do have.
“We won’t take it for granted. I have to enjoy every second we have; it really is a breath of fresh air,” Senior Liz Kvebak said.
Even so, it is notable how different not just practices, but competitions are as well in the new, regulated, sport reality.
“Instead of warmups off, its masks off,” Kvebak said on how even the simple rhetoric has changed with the sport.
“One thing that stood out as different— there was no crowd. It was really about motivating yourself without people cheering your name from the sidelines,” Junior Doris Mor said.
Despite the ability the team now has to practice together, with limits and frequent COVID tests, they remain separate at competitions. The atmosphere without each other has changed both how quickly competitions feel and progress and the team camaraderie.
Team bonding has also grown stronger with the return of in-person competitions and practices. Working with the restrictions in place on team gathering, the Track and Field team was able to reach full-team practice last Friday.
To grow the team closer together on both the Men’s and Women’s sides, it has become common practice from upperclassmen to deliver notes of encouragement to lower classmen throughout the practice week. This atmosphere of camaraderie has been especially emphasized by Head Coach Lund.
“This is my second year with the program, there needed to be a big emphasis on team culture and energy. After fall semester practice in pods we want to build connection and community. Captains are doing a really nice job of involving everyone,” Head Coach Lund said.
Looking forward, a culture of success built on hard work motivates the team to future victory. Personal goals for all the seniors revolve around reaching personal bests and breaking old records. Simultaneously, the team is both grateful and relieved to be back on the field.
“It’s the best part of my day,” Mor said.
The team spirit grown through tending that energy pushes the team forward to upcoming competitions, and all of Gustavus is cheering them on as they travel this weekend to Saint John’s and Saint Benedict’s.