Heading into its third season this semester, the track and field team has not only advanced physically and mentally since its days as a physical education class, but now practices on a different track as well.
The team began as a PE class that met three times a week and traveled to Skyline High School to practice sprints, running and throwing.
“We have come a long way since those days,” said Laura Davis, Head Track and Field Coach who specializes in running events ranging from the 800 meters up to the steeple chase.
For the first time, the team is now practicing at Merritt College, and members said they enjoy not having to compete with high school students for time on the track. Besides being overcrowded, the track was not well maintained.
“It was chaotic. We were always being pushed to the outer levels to practice,” said Perla Cantu, a senior thrower. “Besides practicing in un-ideal lanes, the track was always dirty with garbage.”
Senior runner Angie Sandaval said it is definitely an upgrade. “Changing to Merritt was a huge improvement for our team – and that’s with an emphasis on huge!” she said.
The track at Merritt will serve as the host track for the Mills home meet coming up in April.
Davis considers one of the greatest advancements for her team as a whole to be placing an athlete in every track and field event, with an exception of the pole vault.
Ana Tijiboy, an alumna, began her track and field career at Mills while it was offered as a class. “As a result of track and field transitioning from a PE class to a collegiate sport, people became more competitive. Before it was about fun but now they have become more cohesive as a team.”
Davis has noticed the level of commitment rising each year in her athletes.
“They realize it’s a commitment to the whole team and not about one individual,” she said. “It’s really tough to get to nationals because you have to run a qualifying time but there are a handful of athletes that have a good chance to compete at nationals this year.”
In the previous two years the team consisted of about 15 athletes. Davis said she will have a more concrete roster for this season within the next few weeks.
“It’s looking like there will be 18 athletes this season, but it’s hard to tell the first couple of weeks into the semester,” she said.
The team has two assistant coaches, Winston Wong and Chris Harmon. Wong pecializes in shot, disk, javelin and hammer throws, while Harmon is new to the team this season and coaches jumps, sprints and hurdles.
The team emphasizes that cross country and track and field are two different sports in mental and physical aspects.
“If anyone is interested in running, I would start with track and field. You can really test all aspects of your body and mentally, it’s a different discipline,” said Cantu.
“Track and field is universal to all body types. There is something for everybody – you only need shoes,” said Davis. “You don’t have to buy golf clubs or hockey jerseys.”