By Emilie Medland-Marchen, June 4 2015 —
The Dinos track and field team may be in their offseason, but they’re already hard at work training for the upcoming year.
After a stellar season that included an overall Canada West win for the men’s team in February, head coach Doug Lamont is optimistic for next year’s varsity roster. The Dinos’ elite coaching staff have been central to the team’s success.
“I’d have to say that we probably have one of the strongest coaching groups in the country,” Lamont said during last week’s practice at Foothills Track Stadium.
The team’s recent performance certainly lived up to their coaches’ expectations.
During last year’s outdoor season — the offseason for varsity track athletes, who largely compete indoors — the University of Calgary Athletics Club won the city’s club championship.
They continued their winning streak into the indoor season, as the men’s team won its first Canada West title since 2012. Lamont even took home some hardware himself, earning Male Coach of the Year honours.
But there’s no rest for this team. They’ve jumped straight into their cross-country and outdoor track seasons.
“All the kids who competed in the indoor season are varsity athletes” Lamont said. “We encourage them, once they’re able, to join a club and continue competing and training during the summer.”
Life as a varsity athlete involves a commitment to training and competing eleven months a year. The continuous training is crucial. Letting up during the offseason can derail the athletes’ hopes of being chosen for the travelling team during the school year.
Many of the Dinos’ athletes aren’t from Calgary, but chose to train and work in the city during the summer. Long jump and hurdles athlete Megan Kretzer is part of that group.
“[Moving here] was a lot different. I ran on a gravel track in small-town Saskatchewan,” Kretzer said. “We didn’t have much in a small town, so weight training and training every day a week was a huge change. But I was able to do it because of the great atmosphere here on the team and my coaches’ help.”
Kretzer’s story is similar to that of many members of the team. Athletes are recruited to the U of C based on their prospective talent in specific events. Mariano Ezeta, one of the Dinos’ top sprinters, is a former soccer player from Mexico. He transitioned from soccer into sprinting four years ago.
“I was a midfielder in soccer, and it was definitely great coming into the sport and being able to run,” Ezeta said.
Despite the great fit on the field, life as a student-athlete brings its own pressures outside of athletics.
“It definitely can be a problem. Recently I’ve been trying to do four classes max instead of the full course load. It does get a little bit strenuous sometimes, with big championship meets and going away for a long time. But it’s definitely better to be a Dinos athlete than an individual track and field athlete without support,” Ezeta said.
Kretzer agreed that balancing athletics and academics can be difficult.
“Usually I take four classes, but obviously then it drags on your degree past the four years” she said. Finishing up her fourth year in kinesiology, Kretzer hopes to pursue studies in athletic therapy.
While the balancing act can be difficult, the experience of being on a travelling team and representing the university across the country makes it worthwhile. Emma Cook-Clarke, a member of the travelling roster last year, spoke highly of the experience.
“Cross country was really fun” Cook-Clarke said. “We had Nationals in Newfoundland and it was great to experience that area of the country.”
Cook-Clarke finds that the rigorous training and travel help in other areas of her life.
“I find that it’s almost easier to do well in school while training and working on the team” Cook-Clarke said. “There’s a big drop in my academics and abilities when I, say, have an injury and I’m not training as much. I don’t quite have that adrenaline from my training and competing to count on, which I need to aid other parts of my life.”
Luckily for Cook-Clarke and the rest of her track and field team, the preparations for the upcoming 2015–16 season are in full swing.
The Dinos will continue competing throughout the summer in preparation for their indoor season. The next event will be the 2015 Sherwood Park Track Classic, which takes place from July 25–26 at Strathcona Athletic Park.