Yesterday, the NCAA DIII National Outdoor Track and Field Championships kicked off in Canton, NY. The meet marks the final event of the 2015 collegiate season.
The Maroons sent three of their own to the competition, all from a women’s squad that came out on top in both the indoor and outdoor conference championships earlier this season. Two of these athletes, second-year Michelle Dobbs and third-year Brianna Hickey, have competed on this stage before. On the other hand, for first-year Ade Ayoola, who will be vying for a win in the high jump, this will be a new experience.
“I think I’m just really glad to be here that sometimes I forget that I need to be competing as well,” Ayoola said. “I add stress to the situation when I start thinking too much about what it actually means to be here at nationals.”
A key that all of the athletes emphasized was the importance of not attaching any additional pressure to the weekend despite its obvious implications.
“I have learned that this experience is only as fun as you make it, and when you put too much pressure or undue tension on the competition, it can make it really hard to race,” explained Hickey, who will be running in the 1,500-meter, the exact same race she ran at last year’s outdoor championships in Delaware, OH.
“So, going into the competition, I am now more aware about not getting caught up in thinking only about the race, and [I] try to spend time having fun with my teammates here with me.”
There will be an adjustment for Hickey compared to how she usually races, as this is the only 1,500-meter where she will have to make it through a preliminary stage before being allowed to compete in the finals for the coveted championship. Hickey is currently seeded ninth in the field of 22 while her teammate Dobbs, who will also need to survive a preliminary round of competition, sits at sixth overall in the country for the 800-meter event.
“I think if I can race the prelim with a very relaxed and confident mindset, I should be able to get through to the final. The 800 I ran at North Central a couple of weeks ago should be very good preparation for that,” noted Dobbs of the time she P.R.ed at the Dr. Keeler Invite just a couple of weeks ago, which qualified her for these championships.
“The race should be very exciting, and I think if I stay focused during the event on reacting to my competitors in the right ways, then I should be able to stick with wherever the lead pack takes me.”
All of the competitors agree that it is imperative to stay focused in order to be successful in spite of the myriad distractions that can present themselves at an event such as this. At the same time, though, these three South Siders value this opportunity and will spend time enjoying it with their fellow teammates.
Competition continues at 11 a.m. this morning and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.