Rounding the bend of the last lap, he pumps his arms and his frame of vision becomes a tunnel as the finish line comes into sight. With every stride the feeling in his legs diminishes but his one focus is the white line that sits, almost tauntingly, less than 100 meters away.
The 2016 track and field season also crossed the finish line with new personal records and more runners advancing to the NCS Meet of Champions than last season.
Track and field coach Jeanine Holmlund, more commonly known as Coach B, did not have high expectations because nationwide, California is one of the most competitive states in track and field, she said.
Sophomore Reece Proctor finished the 1600 meter race at varsity league finals, a meet determining who qualified for NCS, in second place out of 16 other athletes, with a personal record of 4:30 minutes.
He was one of the 24 out of 27 athletes at the varsity league finals who continued on to the NCS Bayshore meet, the first round of NCS, on May 21. At this meet he received another personal record of 4:27 minutes which qualified him for the NCS Meet of Champions, the second round, which was held on May 27.
“I was really excited to run at the Meet of Champions because of the intense competition there that we lack at the league level,” Proctor said.
Senior Ryan Howzell also qualified for NCS and got her personal record for the 100 meter race, with a time of 13.36 seconds.
“It was a highlight doing really well at varsity finals because a lot of people got their personal record and the vast majority of people made it to NCS,” Howzell said.
Junior Cade Becker made it to the NCS Meet of Champions in both his events, the 400 meter and the four by 400 meter relay.
Becker and his relay team ran two seconds faster than their previous personal record, but did not advance to the next round of NCS.
Coach B is very proud of how strong and competitive the team has become both throughout this season and over her years of coaching.
“Our level of playing and commitment to the team has improved,” Coach B said. “We have more runners who train throughout the year, they do both cross country and track.”
Freshman Erin Hong, who ran on both the cross country and track and field team, received a personal record at the league finals which enabled her to move on to NCS as well. After months of training, Hong came in ninth place running a 5:31 minute 1600 meter race.
Hong advanced to the Meet of Champions as well where she ran the 3200 meter race and got a time of 12:00 minutes.
For track and field, the preparation for NCS is not the same ramped up training as with other sports.
“Our training actually tapers down a little bit so our legs are fresher and we are able to get better results,” Hong said.
Each athlete’s endurance builds up throughout the season, but the week before NCS is about taking responsibility for their individual event and doing what will help them succeed, Howzell said.
Although a level of individual preparation is necessary and most events are based on personal performance, there is a very strong team dynamic, Proctor said.
This year was Howzell’s first year being part of the track team and she said she appreciated the welcoming and supportive culture of the team.
Becker, who had only been a part of the team for four weeks, agrees that there is a sense of happiness to be there among the athletes, which can be hard to find.
Coach B attributes these connections and positive attitudes to the worldwide running community.
“Runners will always welcome someone no matter what their level or where they are from,” Coach B said. “Runners are good, solid, friendly people because they know it’s not easy to run.
Cohesion among runners and knowing each other well really translates into teamwork in events like the relay and it is really nice to see everyone cheering others on, Howzell said.
In addition to the teamwork, Coach B loves seeing the development of athletes throughout the season and over multiple years.
“It’s great to see our [athletes] grow each year and come back to share their experience with others by coaching events,” Coach B said.