Inside Look at Thornton Academy Girls Track

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  Athletes have to train their mind to let their body deliver the desired results. According to sports psychologists at the University of Texas, an “athlete’s mental toughness is just as important as physical strength.” No matter the circumstances, athletes need to withstand the pain and keep going.

Thornton girls track head coach Lisa Huntress has been putting so much effort and time into her team for many years. She pushes these girls with practices everyday, and leads multiple challenging workouts a week. The coaches aim is not only make the team better physically, but also to make them better mentally. Pushing them to work to the best of their ability even if it’s painful, and helping them become better all around people and athletes.

Jumping coach Carl Smith said, “I believe mental strength is just as important as physical skill. One of my beliefs is that you have to be mentally strong to be able to take the ups and downs of the sport. I also believe in visualization. If I have a kid struggling with a skill in long jump or triple jump I ask them to visualize what I am looking for in that part of the jump.”  

The team really appreciates what the coaching staff does for them, especially captain Arianna True.

True has been a part of the team for the past three years. “I went into my first practice knowing it would be a whole new sport than what I was used to in prior years of middle school and doing track when I was younger. After the first workout, I wondered how I was going to make it through the rest of them. Now, I look back and smile because I made it. I no longer dread the workouts like I did my freshman year because I know I just have to get it done. Although my body does not get as sore as it used to, it still happens, and now I have overuse pain in addition.” Track took a toll on True’s body, but she said, “It’s amazing to see how much your body can do when you tune out your brain telling you how tired you are.”

Track is something True has done since she was eight years old. “I fell in love with the sport. I love how it is an individual sport, yet you’re part of a team. Naturally, my love for the sport made me continue to do it in middle school where my passion grew. I realized I loved it so much in middle school because it came easy to me and I performed well.” High school has changed True’s love for the sport but not in a bad way. She has grown a respect for track, and loves different aspects of it. In addition she has continued to do track because of the people.

“I’m not one to quit, but I would not have the motivation to participate in all these workouts if it was not surrounded by such amazing people. Mainly, my jumping coach. He is such an amazing coach and human, and I know I will carry memories from him with me through life. He further developed my love for long and triple jump, and helped me to find the confidence I needed. I will always appreciate having him to believe in me when I did not believe in myself.”

Going into track her freshman and sophomore year she felt physically unprepared for the workouts. True has learned the importance of maintaining fitness through the year to overcome the struggles she faced in her earlier years of high school.  

True is grateful she has so many great memories of track with her teammates and the accomplishments they have made together. Her most important memories come from jumping practices with other jumpers and her coach. “The best moment in my track career was a realization that came too late. At the end of my junior season of outdoor track I developed really bad shin pain that didn’t even allow me to jog comfortably. At first, my trainers believed it was just shin splints as a result of my tight calves and jumping. Unfortunately, that progressed to a stress reaction in my shin. I was unable to practice during the championship season, but I begged them to allow me to jump in meets. I competed in York counties, southwesterns, and states without having practiced in the weeks prior. These moments made me realize how much I took track for granted.” True’s perspective changed as she looked over the track and realized how much she just wanted to run and participate in a sprinter’s workout. Now, she goes into track thinking “I get to do this” and remembers how fortunate she is to be part of such an amazing program with people who are like family.

Competing in track takes a lot of mental toughness says True. Athletes need to have the mental ability to ignore their brain telling how sore they are and begging them to stop running. “Your body is much stronger than your mind. A strong mentality is needed to get you through the workouts and to push you to be the best you can be. Additionally, an athlete needs the mental toughness to overcome obstacles. For example, track is an individual sport so it is on you when you don’t perform how you would like to. You need the mentality to push past your poor performances and bad days so you can improve. Otherwise, you will be stuck with a lack of confidence and fear of failure.”

True has only two more seasons of track left. Thinking about her journey makes her sad to realize that it’s coming to an end, but she says she will never forget the memories she made on the team, “I do wish I had more time. I want to reach my full potential, but the dwindling time brings a fear that won’t reach my goals. This season, I have gone in with a positivity because I want to make the best of it. I don’t have regrets in track, but I do wish that I had started triple jump sooner. I think more time with the event would have been beneficial, but it’s also the event that gave me my injury, so that makes me not regret starting later.”

Her advice to new track athletes is to enjoy your time participating in track. ”Freshman, the workouts may stink, but it goes by so fast so enjoy it. High school truly flies by despite the days dragging on. I now look back and wonder how I got here. So enjoy track, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Push yourself, and do not cheat yourself. That is so important. It will feel much better if you get the work done, than if you slack off. Also, don’t ignore pain. Yes, you’ll be sore and tight, so stretch, roll, hydrate, and fuel your body with nutrients, but if you have a pain, get it checked out so an injury does not develop.” said True, her best piece of advice “is have a positive mentality, and enjoy the time you have.”

I push my athletes mentally and physically. The reason why I am so demanding on my athletes is because when their four years are done with me, I don’t want them to have any regrets. Another reason why I push my athletes is if they decide to go to the next level to compete I want them to be ready for the demand of a college athlete,” said Smith.

Junior Jennifer Chau only started doing track one year ago. “Prior to TAGIT I had never played a sport. I knew that before my time at Thornton Academy ended I wanted to be a part of a team and more involved in the school.” During her sophomore year two of her friends encouraged her to join the track team and she says it was honestly one of the best decisions she has ever made.

Chau describes being apart of TAGIT as an amazing feeling. “It may sound cliché but we really are a family. It’s incredible how having one common interest can bring so many people together.” One of her favorite memories was during her first 200m dash. “I remember running towards the finish line and hearing my teammates cheer me on. I barely knew these girls, but we were all apart of the same team and that’s the thing I love about this team.”

Track is usually seen as an individual sport and it’s perceived to be very clique oriented but the girls on the team say that is not the case. They say no matter how good you are or what event you do, they are all competing for the same team and support one another.

Chau has struggled with her confidence throughout her seasons. She said even though they are all competing for the same team it is easy to fall into comparison. Jumping coach Carl Smith has helped her immensely with this challenge. “During the championship season I started to lose my confidence. I was surrounded by girls who jumped way further than I did and I was too caught up in what everyone else’s jump was. Coach Smith constantly reminded me that my performance is mine and no one else’s, that every time I stepped on that runway it was mine.”

Thornton Academy girls track athletes love their sport. Themselves and their coaches push them and challenge them to work hard and not give up every practice and meet. Their dedication has continued to show every season and has led them to many positive results.

“The big goal this season is to come home as state champs,” said Smith. Even if they do not bring back a championship the team has learned a mental toughness that will help them in athletics and in life.

 

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