The track and field team set school records in a solid meet at the Niswonger Invitational last Friday and Saturday in Johnson City, Tenn. Improving sprints and hurdles are the team’s top priority.
“Everyone you compete against is a competitor and has an equal chance prior to a race. There’s no focus on a single person or even group of people,” said sophomore Milan Ristic. “Your biggest competition is probably the race itself and trying to improve on past performances.Trying to get better at something you’ve done many times is, in itself, a challenge.”
On the first day of the meet, junior Sarah Gentry finished second in the women’s 800-meter run with a time of 2 minutes and 15 seconds, a new school record, according to University Athletic Officials. Sophomore Meredith Foster finished fifth in the women’s high jump with a height of 1.58 meters.
Ristic, with a new school record time of 21.99 seconds, qualified for the men’s 200-meter dash finals. He also qualified for the 60-meter hurdle finals.
A four-year veteran of the team, senior Emma Bussard said her nerves got to her before the meet.
“I was really nervous. I had two pretty big races in a short time span,” said the health and wellness promotion and art student. “To get myself mentally prepared, I went and talked to our coach for about an hour on Thursday about racing strategies and paces I needed to try to hit.”
Bussard’s races, the women’s distance medley relay and the 3000-meter run, did not exactly go as planned, she said.
“I didn’t race as smart as I should have. I got boxed in on the relay and made a big move to first place in the very beginning of the race instead of being patient and waiting for the opening,” Bussard said. “My biggest competition going into the meet was really just myself.”
On the second day of the meet, freshman Adrian Etheridge finished fifth in the women’s mile run and sophomore Rachel Carson finished sixth, according to University Athletics officials. Freshman Aaron Martin finished 10th in the men’s mile run. In the women’s unseeded 800-meter, junior Alyska Kalmeijer came in second place.
Adequate training remains an important part of being a successful member of the track and field team, Ristic said.
“Training well and consistently, eating well and getting enough sleep; this is ongoing and not specific to this meet,” said the 20-year-old. “The training room and the people from there are really important to me because without them I would never be able to perform as the best as I can.”
In the men’s 60-meter hurdles, Ristic not only came in first place, but he did it in 8 seconds, setting a new school record. Currently, he holds nine school records, he said. He said does not let those records distract or faze him.
“I concentrate on taking the necessary steps and improvements in training which makes success in the competitions possible,” the Serbia native said. “I focus on the process of doing everything better in training rather than the end result and, usually, a better finish will be what happens in the meets and especially in the most important competitions.”
His school record time of 8.00 may improve in the next race, Ristic said.
“The time in final race was 8.00 seconds and I tried really hard to run under that, but it will be better next time,” he said. “I had a great start, and I ran well, I just know I can do better, and I really want to run faster. I’ll keep working hard to get better and run faster.”
As a senior on the team, Bussard’s role on the team is not to be the coach, but a friend the team can come to if they ever need to talk to someone experienced.
“I guess being a senior makes me a role model at times,” the Carrollton, Ga. native said. “I think I’m more of a cheerleader because I always try to encourage people to think positively and to just do the best they can.”
The track and field team feels like a family, Ristic said.
“Everyone from athletes to coaches looking to make themselves better, the friends you make that try to help you and you try to help make them better in sports and school,” said the health and wellness promotion and psychology student. “Wanting to see others you train with improve and achieve their goals.”
The family aspect of the team rings true for Bussard as well.
“The best thing about being a part of our team is the amazing support I feel from everyone involved,” she said. “I don’t think I would be half the runner I am without my teammates to pump me up before races, cheer me on when it starts hurting and hug me or be there for me after the race is over. We’re all so lucky to have each other.”