As one season comes to a close, another goes full speed ahead.
After concluding its season by sending eight athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend, Penn State now has about three weeks off, before beginning its outdoor season at the Stanford Invitational on March 29-30.
Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan said she is happy with the layoff that the team will receive.
“It’s much needed,” she said. “We’ve been at a full-court press since the first of January, when we started practice, so this is a good opportunity for a lot of people to go back to the basics.”
Junior runner Bernard Bennett-Green sees the break as nothing particularly new.
“It’s basically a mini pre-season,” he said, emphasizing that it feels like a condensed version of the team’s usual four-month long preseason, from August to November.
The layoff will also give the athletes time to train for new outdoor events, and to adjust some others.
Bennett-Green personally prefers the outdoor season to the indoor season.
“What I like a lot better…with outdoor, you just keep your lane, [don’t worry] about anyone getting in front of you, and just focus on your own lane and running your own race,” he said.
For example, the 60-meter sprint becomes the 100-meter sprint for the outdoor season. One event that is competed exclusively during the outdoor season is the javelin toss.
The Nittany Lions have two star throwers returning from last season, junior Laura Loht and sophomore Lauren Kenney, and they’re ready to follow up their strong 2012 season.
As the event is only competed in the outdoor season, they train all year long and Alford-Sullivan said that the training has paid off for them.
“They’re much stronger, much leaner, and much faster,” the coach said.
The duo respectively finished third and fourth place at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships, and Alford-Sullivan said they are in good shape going forward.
“They’re in a good mindset and a good physical condition to open that up well and carry it through the season,” she said.
One factor that could affect the team in the outdoor season that is controlled in the indoor season, is the unpredictable Pennsylvania weather. As it is during seemingly every March, the temperatures rise and fall erratically from day to day.
The coach and team are determined to not let this become a problem.
“We have been in Pennsylvania long enough to know that this month can be beautiful outside, or it can be cold and windy like it is [this week],” Sullivan said. “We’ll have to get a little tougher, and dress a little warmer, but it’s part of outdoor track and we’ll be prepared for it.”
She was emphatic in the fact that she considers their indoor facility one of the best in the country, and that the team would take full advantage of that even throughout the outdoor season.
Bennett-Green echoed the same basic idea.
“It won’t make a huge difference, because we’ve done it for so long now, we’re pretty used to just training indoors, and once outdoor comes just going to the meets and running,” the junior said.
Sullivan said the biggest factor for an athlete transitioning between seasons is turning the page.
“We’ve got to let go of indoor, whether it was good, bad or ugly for anybody and get ready for a great outdoor,” she said. “Both teams are pretty fired up to see what they can do.”