Ten years ago, a girl was resistant to the idea of joining track and field with her friends.
“I [did not] want to run every day – it’s not fun,” she now laughs.
Two years later, she joined track and field as a freshman in high school.
Eight years later, Alyssa Rasmussen is making her third trip to nationals representing UW-River Falls.
Rasmussen said she now loves running and that “it’s rewarding and awesome.”
The indoor season for track and field ends with the National Div. III meet on Saturday.
This year, Rasmussen will be joined by Brittany Nordland in the trip to Naperville, Ill. where the meet will be held for indoor track and field.
Nordland said that since it is her first time going to nationals, she does not really know what to expect, other than to be prepared.
She said that she feels very ready to go, especially as a senior.
The top 15 in each event compete at the national meet.
“You have to go out there thinking I’m here for a reason, I got here – I’m as good as everyone else,” Rasmussen said.
Coach Aaron Decker said these two girls have worked hard to gain the confidence which Rasmussen spoke of.
The two girls are seniors, have been part of track and field throughout their college careers and are team captains.
Decker said they also do the little things that make a difference in the sport, like consistently working hard in the weight room, paying attention to their personal nutrition and knowing the limits of their body.
“They have really embodied taking care of themselves to be one of the best in the nation,” Decker said.
For Nordland, this means getting regular amounts of sleep, drinking lots of water, and eating red meat for the iron, as suggested by her coaches.
Rasmussen said taking care of her body is a part of the doing well in the sport.
“It’s just your body verses somebody else. Who has the better training, who has the better body,” she said.
During the indoor season, Rasmussen broke the 200 and 400 meter dash school records while Nordland broke the 800 meter and mile run school records.
Rasmussen, Nordland, Amanda Rothbauer and Katie Rydeen broke the distance medley relay school record.
“If we just keep the pace going, keep the rhythm going, we should be able to bring a good dozen kids to the national meet. We should be able to set another 10 plus school records in the outdoor season alone,” Decker said.
With the season ending, changes in training and schedules are right around the corner.
The track and field athletes are still training, but they are training less intensely so they do not have to try to maintain their peak performance for months at a time, Decker said. He calls this a “base building cycle.”
The differences between the indoor and outdoor seasons include wind resistance or assistance, temperature and weather changes, and the physical structure of the track, like the curves and length of the track.
These result in “significant increases in performances,” Decker said.
Nordland said that outdoor meets are normally “nice and big” in comparison to indoor meets, which she likes.
What does not change is the team dynamic.
“A lot of people look at track and field as an individual sport. I view track and field more as a team sport- working together, supporting each other,” Decker said. “It starts with them understanding that they train each other in practice, they push each other in practice daily, they work hard together.” Rasmussen agreed, saying that what gets her through the hard workouts, and the tough races, is her team.
“You need your team there supporting you,” she said. “Doing anything together is easier than doing it by yourself.”
Track meets are scored by individual events to reflect on individual participation, but the scores are combined to reflect on the team as well.
This can create pressure for athletes because of the potential to let down the team, but Rasmussen said, “If you do the best you can, no one can ask you to do anything else. That’s all anybody can ask for really.”
Even though Rasmussen and Nordland may be going to nationals this weekend, Decker said there is more to it.
“The success of this weekend is not only those two girls, but of the whole program,” said Decker.