Keeping track of track

Track and field is a sport made up of numerous events. Pole-vault, javelin, hammer throw, 200-meter dash… Confused? The Concordian is here to help! Brush up on your track and field know-how with this guide to some of the events. This week: Sprinting, long jump, triple jump and weight/hammer throw. See next week’s paper for more events.


The 60, 200, 400 and 600 meter dashes have the runners all start from blocks. Sophomore sprinter Ben Vickstrom said that for short distance runners, training involves learning how to keep good form throughout the entire dash.

In order to keep good form at the block, athletes need to keep their heads down, pushing their chest and center of gravity as far out as possible once they begin sprinting, Vickstrom said.  Eventually athletes’ legs catch up with their upper body and the runner focuses on trying to keep them as level as possible.

Vickstrom said that sprinters need to keep their lower body and upper body in sync by pumping their arms.

“Arms are a big component of sprinting,” Vickstrom said. “Most people don’t think that runners have to focus just as much on their upper body as their lower body, but you can get a lot of power from your arms.”

Vickstrom explained that for the 200 and beyond, a sprinter’s legs will typically go numb in the last 50 meters as lactic acid builds up in the muscles. Runners must learn to to ignore this feeling in their legs and train their body to function as normally as possible. This means focusing all their attention on pumping their arms and keeping an even stride.

“I love that part of sprinting because I put everything on the line for just a little distance.” Vickstrom said. “It is all mind over matter and I like making my body do things it doesn’t want to do.”

Long jump

Long jump is set up on a l00 to 150-foot-long runway with a sand pit at the end. Somewhere between three and 12 feet back from the sand pit is a board that marks where the jumper must not step past. Each jumper starts a certain distance away from the board and without stepping past the board, jumps to land as far  into the sand as possible. The mark in the sand is then measured to the end of the board on the runway. This distance is the jumper’s score. MIAC jumps range from 18 to 22 feet.

Long jumper Simon Erlandson said long jumping was like flying. Erlandson starts about 102 feet back from the board and then counts his strides so he doesn’t go past the board before jumping. Going past the board is called a scratch and does not count.

Erlandson said jumpers are taught to keep their feet out as far forward as possible and to land on the back of their heel. As their feet hit the sand, they must pull their knees in and push their butt and body forward. The judges score the first mark made in the sand by the jumper’s body when he or she lands. This means jumpers shouldn’t let their hands fall behind them as they land, because then the jump will be determined by measuring to that mark, Erlandson said.

Sophomore long jumper Brandon Zylstra said he enjoys the competitive nature of long jumping. He likes to push himself and see how much he can improve with each jump. Zylstra’s personal record in long jump is 21 feet 8 inches.

“It’s fun to see just how far you can jump across such a long distance.” Zylstra said. “My best moment jumping was during this last conference meet, when I took fourth and got my second best score. It’s a great feeling to break your own personal goal.”

Triple jump

Like long jump, triple jump involves a runway and sand pit. The scoring is the same as in long jump: measurements are taken from the mark the jumper makes in the sand to determine the score. However, the jumping process for triple jump has more steps. The jumper strides down the runway, and after passing a board, must take three striding leaps before landing in the sand pit. The name “triple jump” comes from these three striding leaps the athlete takes when launching themselves in the air.

The stride for triple jump may appear somewhat awkward as the athlete must start by jumping on the same foot twice and then take their final striding leap on the opposite foot. This very specific technique has lead many jumpers to draw their own conclusions about how the event came into being.

Freshman triple jumper Nick Anderson said he thinks that the triple jump must have originated when someone needed to get across three stones in a river.

Anderson said that his own technique for triple jumping is jumping with his left, left, and then right foot. He said he starts his strides 102 feet back from the board.

Anderson said he enjoys triple jump and is proud of his accomplishments in the event.

“I…get a good feeling from triple jump.” Anderson said. “My favorite moment was qualifying for the North Dakota state track meet my sophomore year in high school because I didn’t expect to be that good. My score was actually to the exact inch you needed in order to qualify.”

Weight throw

Weight throw involves a 20- 25 pound ball with a handle and attached string. The thrower spins the ball around their head at least once and then pushes from the bottom handle to throw it high into the air, out from the metal ring the athlete stands in and onto the field.

Behind the ring, there is a tall net circling behind and then fanning out on the side of the counted area where the ball can land. The mark is made from the ball on the field is measured to the rim of the circle where the athlete started his or her throw.

Freshman thrower Ashley Thompson explained it as basically trying to spin as fast as you can while staying in the circle and throwing a very heavy weight over your head and as far as you can.

Thompson said you can spin as many times as you want, but typically beginners start with one spin and step, progressing into as many as three spins as their skill increases. The more spins the athlete does, the more speed the ball has, and therefore there is more momentum to propel the ball longer distances.

“There are a lot of physics involved in weight throw.” Thompson said. “But when you throw you can’t think about it. I honestly black out during the whole throw until the ball is out of my hands and if it went well I don’t feel anything out of place. It is such a powerful feeling.”

Weight throw is an indoor track event. The hammer throw is its outdoor track companion. They are exactly the same event but the hammer throw has a much lighter ball of around 8 pounds and a longer string from which the athlete can throw longer distances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *