Track and field 101

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Many people consider running in circles an activity strictly for rodents. However, to some students, running around a track is more than a passion, it is a lifestyle.

Unknown to many, BYU houses several track and field athletes aiming for the Olympics this year, including Miles Batty and Ryan Waite. The athleticism and endurance required to compete in the Olympic trials are found in the Cougar community.

For non-runners, track and field can be a confusing sport. What are the distances? How is it scored? Is there technique involved? The amount of training, style and skill that goes into every race is significantly more than just running in circles.

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BYU's Aaron Powell runs a relay last year.
For former collegiate runner Daniel Wade Jones, the mile was the beginning of a running career.

“I definitely had no idea what I was doing,” Jones said. “It was fun to beat people but at the same time I didn’t enjoy running … I had no idea how to pace myself. I charged out the first 400 really fast … until I was struggling to breathe.”

No matter how talented or naturally gifted one is at running, it is safe to say running is difficult.

“It develops qualities most sports don’t develop,” sophomore Missy Lott said. “I have a goal, you can see that goal … and see what you need to work on.”

Track and field is a simple sport. It is geared toward personal goals of times to beat, distances to throw and heights to surpass. The winner is easily decided. The times, heights and distances do the talking, not the referees.

Scoring is also a simple concept. With many members running for one team, it is scored on individual performances. For a national collegiate meet, a winner of an event earns 10 points, followed by 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 for the following seven finishers. The team with the most points at the end of the meet wins.

Running events vary in time and distances. Some races are finished in less than seven seconds, whereas others last for 15 minutes. Occasionally races are so close that without a camera, it is impossible to detect the winner. Distances are as short as 55 meters, the length of the Cougareat Subway line at lunch, to the 5k meter, a little over three miles. And if running weren’t enough, several of these races include hurdles throughout the course of the race.

There are several instances, however, where team members compete together in one race. These relays usually occur at the end of meets and vary in distances. There are four members to each relay. Each runner is responsible for a leg of the race.

There are many different types of relays. In the 4×400 meter relay, each member runs 400 meters. However, in other relays such as the sprint medley, the distances are not all the same. For instance, the first two runners race 200 meters, the third runner races 400 meters, and the anchor, or final leg, finishes the race with 800 meters.

As running events occupy the track, many field events occupy the remaining areas around the track. These events consist of jumping, throwing and pole-vault. Specific techniques and approaches accompany each field event, making these events much more difficult than they appear.

The fact the distances are measured in meters may make track a more difficult concept.

“The only thing  I think people have problems with are the distances,” BYU student Rachel Jackson said. “They don’t know the difference between a 400 meter race and the mile.”

To give a better measure of distance, one time around an outdoor track is 400 meters, or a quarter-mile. However, indoor tracks are generally shorter, only 200 meters instead of 400 meters.

Ultimately, track may not be as mysterious as many make it out to be. Confusion often boils down to a lack of interest. Other than the Olympics, track and field does not receive much limelight.

“I wouldn’t necessarily watch it unless there was someone I knew or the Olympics,” sophomore Dominic Schmuck said.

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