STORY BY EMILY LAMBIE
As Drake Relays are now upon us, the Bulldog athletes who will represent their school this week have been preparing intensely so that they can perform as best they can at the biggest event of Drake’s Track and Field season.
One of those athletes is senior Steven Jordan, who will be competing in his third Relays.
He is not sure what event he will be participating in yet, so he is basing how he prepares on what he ran last year. He expects to compete in the Men’s 1600 Sprint Medley, the 4×100 relay and the 4×200 meter relay.
“We have been working out hard again and we can work our base up, just by doing a little longer workouts, but then later in the week we will do some more speed, just so we’re ready for the meets, and ready to run fast,” Jordan said.
Along with the athletic side of it, he has been trying to stay healthy and keep his body in shape in order to become a better athlete and a better runner.
“I’m just working hard every day and trying to push myself until we get to that point where we need to show up in front of our home crowd,” Jordan said.
He is excited for Relays this year and the atmosphere that comes along with it.
Competing alongside Jordan is freshman Mary Young, who is a veteran of Drake Relays, even if this will be her first time competing at the collegiate level.
This will be Young’s third year competing, but her first as a college athlete. She won the Women’s 100-meter hurdles two years in a row at the Drake Relays while in high school, setting the high school Relays record as a senior, and is excited to see what they will be like this year as a college athlete.
“I’m trying to just get my mind right,” Young said. “I’m not going in with the same high school mindset, and just going and trying to go in and PR or do better and to not think about everyone else.”
Not only is she preparing mentally, but physically as well. Assistant coach LaRon Bennett is working with Young and her fellow hurdlers in order to make sure that they are adequately prepared for Relays.
“Coach Bennett has us working hard,” Young said. “He is trying to get me to the 400 hurdles, and a lot of starts,” Young said.
However, when it comes to the elite, professional athletes, preparing for competitions functions a little bit differently
For hurdler Dawn Harper-Nelson, training is her life. And that training has paid off, as she has placed first in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and took home the silver four years later in London.
This will be Harper-Nelson’s fourth time competing at Drake Relays, her best performance coming in 2013 when she placed second by .03 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles. Last year her performance wasn’t as strong, finishing in seventh place of eight.
Her practice routine is a little bit more intense. She will be given a specific time to run by her coach who asks her to come to practice ‘race ready,’ as if it was an actual meet.
“In my head I’m just thinking, ‘You know you have competition besides you, you still got to run this time the coach wants you to run, clean race, fast and it always ends with the scream at the finish line.’” Harper-Nelson said. “He comes over and tells me whether I met the goal or not. So I love that type of pressure at practice because, to me, it’s the exact same pressure that I put on myself at a track meet.”
To Harper-Nelson, the most important aspects of practice are being strong and having an attitude like that of an athlete in competition.
“The mindset going in to this is about just saying I really want to execute these things that me and my coach have worked on, and I really, really want to give the fans a good show,” Harper-Nelson said.
Harper-Nelson, like Young, prepares both physically and mentally.
“In my head, I do a lot of visualization, visualizing a lot of my races,” Harper-Nelson said. “I do a lot of visualizing where if I don’t have a good start, you know how you have to catch up, the moves that you will have to make. I do a lot if I have a good start, and then I’m out in front and I do a great race.”
All of that hard work will be put to the test this week once the athletes step into the blocks on the starting line of the historic blue oval.