Now is the time of year focused on fine-tuning and power, when there is a sense of readiness for competition every day.
The sprinters on the Yale men’s track and field team are a friendly, close group of runners, but more important, they are a group of athletes who are committed to each other and to winning. Whether they run the shorter events like the 55- and 60-meter dashes or long sprints like the 400- and 500-meter, all sprinters work on developing the precise technique and strength needed to defeat their opponents in at most 70 seconds. At this point in the season, the main difference between the two groups is the length of the practice intervals.
On Tuesday, the long sprinters, including Rob DeLaski ’06, Shomari Taylor ’06, Mike Brown ’06 and Kevin Alexander ’06, ran a low volume but extremely intense workout of 500-200-400 meters. David Shoehalter, who is the head coach but also works with the sprinters, said that this type of workout focuses on speed endurance.
“The stuff today is what these guys dread,” Shoehalter said. “They know they will hurt, but hurting makes you good. You have to simulate the agony of races.”
After their first quick 500 meters, the sprinters stood around, amiably talking with each other. They tried to stay loose by walking and stretching. Their eyes looked somewhat glazed already, but they knew what they had to do. Shoehalter, or “Coach Shoe,” as his sprinters call him, walked around checking in with each athlete. He put everyone at ease with his friendly demeanor.
While the long sprinters were putting in their hardest workout of the week, the short sprinters were doing a strength and restoration circuit. Monday had been the hard day for the short-distance runners, including Russ Kempf ’07, Omari Douglas-Hall ’07 and James Beck ’05. They ran sprints attached to bungee cords to add resistance on certain exercises and for assistance on others. They also did block starts. Sprinter coach Marc Davis said his wards are starting to taper now that there are less than two weeks until the Ivy League championships.
“Right now, it is fine tuning without cramming their minds,” Davis said. “We want them to run fast, but they have put in most of the work before now.”
Though the short-distance sprinters joked with each other during practice, they accomplished what they needed to and got in some important rest as well. Davis said that they are in the mode of competing.
“The atmosphere is happy and ready to compete,” Davis said. “It’s a younger group of guys who have come in working hard. They have been feeding off each other and feeding off their good performances.”
The short sprinters finished before their longer-distance teammates and headed off to the shuttle together. At this point in the practice, the 400- and 500-meter dash runners were on their last interval. As Davis and Shoehalter shouted out encouragement, the runners forced their legs to push through the lactic acid in their leg muscles and finished strong. Afterwards, Brown and Taylor stared blankly and struggled for breath before laying on the crash pad to rest. DeLaski might have done the same had he not vomited, something Shoehalter described as expected after this kind of workout. DeLaski said this is the best kind of workout for how he races.
“It tore me apart, but it keeps your body used to how races feel,” DeLaski said. “We keep a good balance between this kind of workout, endurance workouts and speed workouts, which is important.”
DeLaski said the great performances are partially due to the strong sense of team this season.
“It’s really good working together because we push each other,” DeLaski said. “We have the same intensity and focus, much more than we did last year.”
Kempf, who consistently scores for the Elis in the shortest sprints indoors, said his performances can be attributed to high volume in the beginning of the year and tapering now. Kempf also emphasized the need for getting out of the blocks and beating the competition from the beginning.
“For short races, you need natural speed and strength at this level, and you can only get so much faster,” Kempf said. “Each time, you are trying to put together the perfect race, which for me involves getting a good start.”
As all the sprinters head into the championship season, they will taper and rest more. Shoehalter said there will be almost no real work before the Heptagonal Championships.
“We will have them do some short, really fast stuff to make them feel fast and keep their nervous system ready, but we don’t want to stress the muscular system,” Shoehalter said. “Rest now is almost more important than training, and they need rest in all aspects of their lives.”