Winter Track is a novelty of the varsity sports teams at Chatham High. The team is comprised of students who got up and decided they’d love nothing more than —not only to run for fun— but to do so in the freezing cold. Through rain, shine, and wicked windchill, runners congregate at Cougar Field to train in their events for meet after meet.
The structure of the meets themselves don’t take on a typical dual-style. With around 5-7 teams competing against each other at once, it can get pretty hectic at Drew University— the college that hosts the majority of meets during the season. Every winter track runner remembers their first meet, but it isn’t that first stride into the facility that sticks out in their mind. It’s the air.
Lovingly dubbed “Drew Cough” by Chatham runners, they describe the feeling of the warm, dry air in their lungs that really hits hard, mid-race especially. This theme seems to be one across the board with indoor tracks: 200-meter loops, $2 concession-stand Gatorades, and stiff-dry air. Half the time the importance of bringing a water bottle stems not only from necessary hydration, but moisturization as well. Year in and year out, an upperclassman’s advice to a newbie almost rarely relates to the event someone is running in itself. “You’ve been training for that all season,” a senior explained. “You’re already in pretty good shape once meets come around.” Teammates stress to each other the important technique of deep, slow, and controlled breaths before, during, and even after events. “You’d never really notice it outside of a drier environment, but fast breaths can dry out your throat pretty quickly.” Just imagining that feeling of dry air pin-pricking in your chest stacked on top of running your hardest for your team shows the resilience these runners have. “It’s pretty difficult to teach yourself to focus on your breathing when you also wanna focus on running your best time, but once you get more of a hold on taking longer, deeper breaths —even when you’re getting tired— it really does pay off.”
Drew University dominates the location of meets towards the beginning and middle of the season, but intensities shift as the season becomes more competitive. The Freshman-Sophomore Championship meet marks the end of the non-varsity winter season. From there, Drew starts to fade out and a more common host becomes Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island. With meets typically starting around 4:00 PM, Chatham runners need to adjust from the luxury of convenience that they’re used to. Teams like Nutley, Butler, and Caldwell are regular competitors with Chatham, and are used to long trips to Drew and leaving early from school for meets. Chatham, on the other hand, go from the 10-15 minute bus commutes to Drew to highway trips lasting an hour and a half to the coast of Lower Bay in New York.
The events at winter track meets break down as follows: runners divide into sprints and distance, while field competitors split into high jump, shot put, long jump, and pole vault. Sprinting events include the 55m dash, 55m hurdles (normal and high hurdles), 200m, 300m, and 400m. Distance events are the 600m, 800m, 1000m, 1200m, 1600m, and 3200m. Not every race is included in each meet, but runners tend to specialize in one or two of their favorite races. At Drew, field events compete inside the ring of the track. Some athletes will decide to participate in a field event as well as running, so they have the additional responsibility to keep track of themselves and make sure they know exactly when they can expect to be called for the separate events. At practice, athletes such as Lauren Clarke —proficient in the 55m dash as well as long jump— must ration their time to put their best foot forward for upcoming meets.
At this point in our 2019-2020 season, non-varsity meets have long since been completed. Our top runners and field competitors must qualify for each additional meet they hope to attend. Coach Nydeggar, the head coach of the girls team, believes our team has a solid shot of qualifying in the 55m dash, 55m high hurdles, long jump, and 4 x 200 relay for the Eastern States relay at The Armory in New York City on February 18th. From the CHS Chronicle, we wish our peers the best of luck and a long continued season!