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Track: Outdoor track presents different challenges

Chris Coduto//Arizona Daily Wildcat
Shot-putter Megan Howard releases a throw during Saturday's Jim Click Shootout and placed first in the shot put event, with a distance of 15.91 meters. The Wildcats are two meets into the outdoor track season, which differs from their earlier indoor season.
By J. Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
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Comparing the indoor and

outdoor track seasons

As the 2005 indoor track season drew to a close at the Indoor National Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., the Arizona track and field teams officially turned their attention to the outdoor season already in progress.

"Our focus as a program is on outdoor season," Arizona head coach Fred Harvey said.

But what really is the difference between the two seasons?

There is the obvious indoor venue versus an outdoor venue, but the discrepancies get deeper from there, starting with the size of the track.

Whereas an outdoor venue (such as Arizona's Drachman Stadium) has a track that measures 400 meters with eight separate lanes, an indoor venue has a track half that size, measuring only 200 meters with four lanes. For athletes, like sophomore sprinter Jennifer Whitlock, who are not used to a track like that, it can take some getting used to.

"Indoor is much smaller, so when you have to do a 400-meter event (outdoors), you look out here and see this big track, and it can be intimidating even though it's the same distance," Whitlock said.

Another difference comes in the actual number of events that are held at an outdoor competition versus its indoor counterpart, as well as the length of those events.

Whitlock noted that the 60 hurdles indoors become the 100 hurdles outdoors.

"In the (indoor) hurdles, it just seems like the race ends so fast," she said. "At indoor competitions you're allowed fewer mistakes - you actually really can't make any mistakes."

Whitlock said because of the added length to the events, athletes need to develop greater endurance early in the outdoor season.

"Because there's only five hurdles (indoors), all the endurance that we have was just for five hurdles, and now we have to get accustomed to doing 10 (for outdoors), which is different," she said.

"Towards the end of the season, it will definitely be OK."

There is also a difference as some events - the 4x100 relay, the javelin and 10,000 run - are also added during outdoor meets.

Another difference between the seasons is the weather - something Arizona is all too familiar with after having to cancel the Wildcat Classic March 5 because of lightning - not to mention the heat.

"We start practicing at night when it gets hot, and that's nice, because I mean it's hot, but I'm not too worried about it, you just need to drink a lot of water," Whitlock said.

The big change in the seasons is the Wildcats' ability to host meets, which gives athletes a break from the recent travel, something Harvey ensured with the current four-meet home stand.

"It helps when you already know the track, you train on the track every single day," Whitlock said. "Not only that, but we actually have support from people we know."

The Wildcats also get support from a full cast of teammates, something that wouldn't happen on the road.

"With the home meets, you know that all of your teammates are going to be here," Whitlock said. "Sometimes when we go away, we don't bring our whole team, but here you have all your team supporting you, and you usually don't have that (on the road)."

The athletes seem to enjoy the outdoor season, mostly due to the fact that it is the type of track and field that they are used to.

"Most of the folks here are West Coast people," Harvey said. "They're people who are used to running outdoor competitions, so indoors is entirely foreign to a lot of them."

"I'd say (outdoor) is better just because you're outside, it doesn't feel like you're suffocated like it does when you're inside," Whitlock said.

Like Whitlock, senior jumper Mark Ramos felt smothered indoors.

"I kind of like the outdoors better than the indoors. I feel like a trapped animal indoors," Ramos said.

Not all of those on the team agreed with the apparent consensus.

"I personally like (running indoors) a little bit better," junior pole vaulter Sam Jacobson said. "You don't have to deal with all the elements, the wind blowing in your face or anything like that."

Harvey said he feels his team is built for the outdoor season as opposed to the recently concluded indoor season.

"Without a doubt we are," he said.

At the conclusion of the four-meet home stand, the Wildcats hit the road for nearly a month and a half before returning home for the Tucson Elite Classic.

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