Weather conditions prevented the Northwest track and field team from taking the trip to the Graduate Classic Jan. 16-17 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The significance of the meet was for athletes, particularly those running in 200-meter and 400-meter races and relays, to get time on a 200-meter bank track, which differs from the 300-meter flat track at Hughes Fieldhouse. The NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field National Championships will be run in Birmingham, Alabama, on a bank track that is nearly identical to the one the Bearcats didn’t get to run on.
Coach Brandon Masters was disappointed the team couldn’t make the trip but said they still got better, which is the goal. The team had a fantastic workout, Masters said, in place of attending the meet.
“We got better,” Masters said. “We still probably got a better workout than going to the meet itself.”
Senior Jordan Hammond and sophomore Omar Austin are among the athletes who were slated to compete at the Graduate Classic. Hammond and Austin competed at nationals last year, with Hammond earning First Team All-American honors. Both were hoping to get more time in on a bank track to prepare for this year’s championship.
Austin has only run on a bank track once, his freshman season. The lack of experience on the style of track, Austin said, didn’t play in his favor. Despite the inexperience, or bad experience for that matter, he’s not looking for that to lower the expectation that he holds himself to.
“I didn’t do my best,” Austin said. “I ain’t makin’ no excuses.”
Austin added that bank tracks force him to run in a different style and be less conservative while running.
“On a 200-meter bank, you have to give your all,” Austin said. “If anything, I like it because it’s going to push me to give my all.”
Hammond said the bank track does change races for athletes, especially those in 200-meter and 400-meter races.
“Getting used to being able to control your body on a track like that makes a big difference,” Hammond said.
The next meet for the Bearcats will be a home meet Jan. 24-25 in Hughes Fieldhouse. Hammond and Austin are both competing in the home meet. Austin is coming off a slight groin injury that was troubling him for a little over a week, but says he is good to go for the rest of the year.
“I’m not going to let that hold me back,” Austin said about the groin injury.
This will be the second straight home meet for the team, leaving a 48-day break from competition for the athletes due to holiday break and the cancellation of the Graduate Classic. Austin and Hammond were in agreement on the effect that competing at home in front of the Bearcat faithful can have on an athlete.
“I always get that burst of energy,” Austin said. “It’s like you’re in your house, you just do what you wanna do.”
“It gives you a lot more adrenaline to perform your best in front of all the Bearcats,” Hammond added.
Masters is looking at the upcoming home meet and other meets before conference championships as a learning opportunity; he isn’t as concerned with results as he is with experience in competition.
“I choose to make most of these meets — a high-level practice,” Masters said. “It’s learning how to compete, not necessarily going for big marks.”
Hammond echoed Masters’ sentiment on the early meet competition.
“It doesn’t matter ’til it counts,” Hammond said. “We are either trying to win conference championships or trying to be an All-American, anything before that is trying to prepare you for that moment.”