Freshmen adapt to fuel track, field team
GVSU's Sean Wells hurdles during a home meet in 2014.
When it’s clear that you’re going to have to sustain off of something other than mom’s cooking, sleep in a bunked bed in a confined dorm room you’re sharing with a roommate, both of which are capable of cramping your style, the burning realization dawns that being away from home has its drawbacks. Being a freshman away at school can be tough, there’s no doubt about it. However, being a student athlete on top of that can be downright trying.
By the looks of it, track and field student athletes are having very little difficulty with the adjustment so far.
“Well, I can say firsthand that everyone tells you that college is a big transition and that it’s going to be tough and you can kind of wipe it off like it’s not a big deal,” said freshman miler and 3,000-meter runner Kate Cliff. “Once you get there, you realize there are a lot of extra stresses and you have to grow up a lot quicker and I’d say that our team is really, really welcoming and has made the transition easier for all of us.”
Sean Wells, freshman 60-meter hurdler and 200-meter dash participant, and Darien Thornton, freshman shot-putter and weight throw participant, have been two of the more impressive performers on the top five nationally ranked men’s team all season.
Wells, who has taken first in the 60-meter hurdles in both the Mike Lints Open and GVSU Quad Meet, never expected to be a contributor this early in his career.
“Definitely not what I expected,” Wells said. “From being in senior year in high school and hearing that you really have to adapt to everyone, I was just coming in here wanting to learn, wanting to get faster, racing the faster guys. This year surprised myself, you know, just training hard.”
The current GVSU school record in the 60-meter hurdles is 8.02 seconds set in 2007 by Garron Lucious. With a personal record of 8.2 in the distance established, Wells already has his sights set on creating a legacy.
“I’m going to make sure I beat that, at least by the time I finish here,” Wells said.
Thornton too has already surpassed his expectations, but has his sights on what the future might bring.
“I didn’t expect it,” Thornton said. “I wanted it more than expected it. I wanted to work hard. It was a goal, definitely a goal, and with the help of coach, looks like we’re getting that goal.”
Besides achieving personal records and All-American honors, team achievements are points of emphasis.
“I don’t know about this year, but soon to come I want to get a national title,” Thornton said. “We had a good recruiting class this year, coming in for next year.”
Freshman distance runner Amy Creutz understands the correlation of both personal and team goals already.
“If we all do our part and all make our own individual goals – whether that be All-American, make an automatic time – I think overall our team will be successful,” Creutz said.
It’s evident is that the freshman class has been successfully integrated. How this happened is another matter entirely.
“I guess for me just having the support of the upperclassmen has been huge,” said freshman distance runner Alison Work when categorizing the early success. “They’ve been really encouraging and really supportive, pushing us to take that extra step and reminding us to do the little things every day – keep on our nutrition and sleeping.”
The acceptance of coaches has been a universal factor, as well.
“Encouragement from the coaches, especially because you think ‘freshman, no one’s really going to pay attention to you,’ but the coaches are really involved,” said freshman distance runner Katie Shaheen.
Mom’s cooking will undoubtedly still be missed, but the clearly symbiotic relationship and early growing process that has taken place this year has benefited all parties involved.
“I don’t think I could be here and not be on the track team,” Thorton said. “I don’t know if I could make it.”