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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


A sprinter’s challenge: Arizona track and field faces grueling eight week test

There is something unique about the end of fall for the sprinters on the UA men and women’s track and field team. Arizona sprinters started with an eight-week training cycle in the beginning of September that ended in a challenge week, preceding a physically demanding test week.

The eight-week cycle requires consistent effort throughout its grueling workouts and early mornings. However, there was a silver lining: ending with a challenge week and seeing great test results.

Since there aren’t any meets for the team until January, the challenge weeks were a great way for the sprinters to be competitive in a team-building atmosphere.

“[Something] I noticed a couple years back is the competitiveness and aggression level wasn’t as high [without a challenge week],” said Francesca Green, the Arizona track and field assistant sprint coach. “So by adding challenge week, it got the competitive juices flowing and really gave an opportunity for them to rise up to another level.”

It was Green who implemented the challenge week three years ago.

The week primarily consisted of one-on-one matchups between male and female sprinters.

If an event seemed it could be something that a female or male could dominate, like box jumps, then it came down to who could hit his or her own personal best. There were two individual challenges per day and typically one team challenge per day.

By the end of the week, whichever side had gained the most points—which are accumulated by individual wins, team wins and bonus challenge wins—would earn a special team dinner made by the coach.

The various challenges included who could hold a plank for the longest, do the most burpees in two minutes, hold a chin up position for the longest and push a 130-pound sled for 50 yards the quickest.

One particular non-track-related event was a sand volleyball challenge. After the event, the sprinters said they had gained appreciation and respect for what the sand volleyball players do on a daily basis.

“This challenge really showed how much strength you need to be able to move quickly and efficiently in the sand,” said Aaliyah Haggard, a redshirt sophomore sprinter. “It’s very tiring and takes a lot endurance.”

Challenge week accomplished more than just physical and athletic improvements for the sprinters; it brought the teams closer together.

“Challenge week helped me build a bond with some of my teammates,” said Sasha Jarrett, a freshman sprinter. “I feel that jumping my personal best in box jumps [also] gave me a certain mental toughness because I didn’t think I would be able to do it. But with the support of my team, I was able because they filled me with confidence.”

A gain of mental edge came with challenge week, but a particular benefit, according to Green, was the character-building aspect.

“For the girls’ team, I would say the biggest thing, especially with some of the new freshmen, I felt that they jelled together as a team,” Green said. “I thought there was great support [and] excitement [in] everybody through every challenge. No matter who they were going up against, [the girls] supported each other and gave each other confidence that they were going to win.”

There was more camaraderie, confidence and competitiveness after the challenge week. During the test week, there have already been many personal bests in the weight room and on the track, Green said.

“We started to have faith in our teammates’ abilities and strengths,” said Jasper Gray, a junior sprinter.

The women bounced back and defeated the men this year after losing at the event in 2014.

“My hope is that [the men’s team] can understand the importance of staying aggressive no matter what the outcome is,” Green said.

Challenge week is meant to create a competitive environment and bring unity to a sport that seems like an individual output.

“I like challenge week because it adds fun to the hard training we do during the offseason,” said Bryce Houston, a junior sprinter. “It definitely brought us more together as a unit and a family.”

Since the men had to deal with defeat, it brought them to learn to adjust to adversity and recognize their own weaknesses and strengths.

“Most people think of track as an individual sport, but when it’s all said and done, we’re competing for championships as a team,” Green said.

Follow Gia Trevisan on Twitter.

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