What’s What and Who’s Who: Indoor Track

How many times?

The Coxe Cage track — like most others — is 200 meters in circumference. In other words, you have to run around it eight times for a mile-long race. And, unlike fall’s cross country, the 3,000-meter event requires each athlete to circle the track 15 times.

But don’t worry, there is a counter who records the leader’s lap count. This gets sticky in the 3,000 meters, however, because runners sometimes lap their competitors, meaning runners behind the pack might lose track of what lap they’re on.

Going to the bank(s)

Unlike some venues, the Coxe Cage track has a significant bank to its turns, which means that times are generally faster. Two weeks ago at the Cage, a Georgetown sophomore ran the fastest one-mile time in the country so far this year, 3:58.46. (Yale’s Jared Bell finished fourth, in 4:08.07, qualifying for the IC4A Championships.) The bank is particularly helpful in the shorter events, where the runner’s momentum can make it difficult to stay in his or her lane.

Around and around and around

Runners always travel in the same direction — counterclockwise. As a result, it is common for runners to sustain injuries in either their left knees or left hips.

Where it’s sunny every day

Athletes appreciate the indoor season because every day is a good day to race. But the turns in the track can make it difficult to run fast.

Outdoor track this ain’t

Because of the shortened distance of the track, indoor season brings with it a handful of quirky events. Others are mainstays on the track, but their character changes when you tighten the turns, add banking and eliminate the outdoor elements.

Weight Throw — This is an indoor-only event. Athletes hurl a large weight (15.9kg for men, 9.1 for women), wrapped in a net attached to a metal ring. They spin around holding the ring and then release the whole apparatus. The shot putters and javelin throwers participate in this event.

Shot Put — Shot putters hurl a heavy ball (7.26kg for men, 4 for women) as far as possible from within a seven-foot playing circle.

60-meter hurdles — Another indoor-only event, run on a short strip of track lying down the middle of the oval. Athletes jump over five 42-inch-high hurdles, slamming into a padded wall at the end of the straightaway because space is so tight. The athlete is not disqualified if a hurdle is knocked over.

High Jump — Participants jump over a bar that is raised incrementally after an athlete makes it over without knocking the bar down. Each athlete gets three tries at each successive height.

Long Jump — Jumpers run down a ramp, using their speed to propel them through the air and land as far as possible into a sand pit. Distance is measured from the closest point of impact, and jumpers are allowed three attempts.

Triple Jump — Think of it as a “hop, skip and jump.” Triple jumpers take three jumps, and they have to take the first two jumps off the same foot; the last foot, they can switch. This requires more coordination than it seems. Whatever foot you land on, you immediately have to jump off again.

Pole Vault — The vaulter runs down a ramp, pole in hand, and braces it against a box, propelling himself over a bar. As with the high jump, the bar is raised after each successful jump. The NCAA says the pole may be of unlimited size and weight, but there are some practical limits.

4X400-meter Relay – Each of the four runners carries a baton 400 meters before handing off to the next leg. The individual runners are strategically ordered to play to their strengths.

Are we done yet?

Because there are so many events, the competitions are fairly long. When the meet is two days long, athletes spend up to 10 hours on the track.

By invitation only

Most of the meets so far this semester have been unscored; instead, athletes compete for individual qualifying times for the championship events. There are only two scoring events before the championship season.

During scored events, the first three events (or, at championships, the first six) count toward the team score. In the relays, only the top two finishes count toward the overall score.

Thinking outside the box

For races 800 meters and longer, the athletes don’t stay in their lane. Eight-hundred-meter races are the hardest indoor races because athletes do not run in lanes, but the race is still relatively short. It is difficult to pass people on a short track because you don’t want to pass people on a turn — if you get boxed in, it’s tough to finish well.

Championship time

This weekend, athletes compete at the annual HYP meet at Coxe Cage. This is their last regular season meet, as Ivy Championships — “Heps” — run the first weekend in March and conference championships — ECACs for women and IC4As for men — the weekend of March 8.

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