Story by Casey Baumberger
Photos by Baron Cao and Joel Venzke
“I don’t believe that the average Drake student could just come to practice one day and be able to handle what we do,” said cross country and track runner Angela Ufheil. “It takes years of practice to build up the mental and physical endurance necessary to handle the kind of mileage and intensity of our running.”
During an indoor track practice, both men’s and women’s teams warm up and practice together. The warm-up is the longest part of practice, consisting of various leg, ankle, hip and arm stretches.
For the actual workout, the runners separate into distance, sprinting and hurdling groups. Each group does its own workout tailored to improve each specialty.
The distance runners head outside for longer runs while the sprinters and hurdlers stay inside to work on balance and hip-flexor strength, both of which are essential to an efficient sprint.
“As the season progresses, the workouts become shorter, but they become more intense,” said Drake head track and field coach Natasha Brown.
“The earlier practices are fairly easy because the goal is to ease into a hard workload while avoiding any sort of injury. By the end of the season, the sprinters will have short workouts, maybe 15 minutes long. But those 15 minutes are full of high-intensity sprints,” Brown said.
Running is common in all sports, even rowing.
“We usually run for time and not distance or speed. It’s supplemental cardio for us,” said Emma Sheldon, a member of the crew team.
“We spend most of our time on the rowing machines during the winter, and when the weather gets nice, we spend the majority of our time on the water, “ Sheldon said.
The men’s soccer team begins practice with a set of running and active stretching drills to limber up their legs.
“Running is a fundamental part of soccer,” said goalie Darrin MacLeod.
After the initial warm-up, the men move on to drills with the ball. They break into several relay teams and worked the ball up and down the field, honing their ball control.
They ran passing drills that emphasize the accuracy of passing the ball to where it is intended.
Toward the end of practice, the team splits into two teams and plays a scrimmage match. Even though it is just a practice, the intensity and energy of the game is intense.
“The beginning of practice is pretty easy, just warming up. I think an average Drake student could do that part, but after that, they would really struggle with the technical skills and some of the physical aspects of it. It takes a lot of practice to become proficient at soccer skills,” Reutzel said.
During the off-season, many athletes continue to work hard.
“We have a weights program that we do during the winter. No one likes it very much, but we have to keep in shape somehow, “ Reutzel said.
However, some, like Drake’s runner,s have no off-season.
“A runner never has an off-season. There are times when you run less or less intense, but you always run,” said Brogan Austin, a member of the track and field team.
“The winter makes us use the rowing machines, which no one likes to do, so we look forward to the nice weather,” Sheldon said.
“All in all, I don’t think that a regular Drake student could just jump into any kind of varsity sports practice and be able to do well. It takes an incredible amount of time and effort to become good at a sport, especially at a collegiate level,” Reutzel said. “It also requires a level of passion that will motivate someone to continually push themselves to improve, even when it gets hard.”