NORTH ADAMS -- Win or lose, it doesn't really matter in April. As long you're talking about a track and field meet.
Sure, winning is nice and usually the main goal. But track and field is different.
Postseason qualification isn't based on wins and losses, but on time. Standards are set at the beginning of the season and based off last season's times.
"We just want to come into the season and improve our times," Drury's Alyssa Marceau said. "Obviously, you want to start better, but the goal is to end even better and be prepared [for Western Mass.]."
Because postseason qualifications are based on time, it allows athletes compete in different events over the course of the season. It also allows them to make sure they are fully recovered from minor injuries before jumping back into an event. When every win and loss are crucial to postseason berths, players can lose sight of the big picture and participate in the sport when a day's rest might have been the better option.
Mount Greylock's Emily Kaegi and Hoosac Valley's Kalyn Alibozek both battled a case of tendonitis to start the season.
Kaegi had the problem in her ankle and was in a walking boot for several weeks allowing herself to fully recover.
Both returned for Friday's meet at Drury. Kaegi took first in the mile and qualified for Western Mass. Alibozek was second and barely missed the cut. Not running for a few weeks proved to be a smart decision.
"I kept up biking and spinning. All of that was OK because it was low impact," Kaegi said. "I did a lot of awkward jogging, such as pool workouts. That's really how I kept myself going for three weeks."
She was able to keep her conditioning up while she couldn't run, making the transition back to running easy for her.
Alibozek battled tendonitis in her knee and was afraid she would injure herself more if she did too much.
"I was afraid to do [workouts] because I didn't want to hurt myself more," she said. "I did strength stuff, but nothing to really keep my stamina up."
Alibozek said she wasn't focused on winning the race, but rather pacing herself and making sure she was healthy.
That pacing is the key across the board. The goal is to be running your fastest wehn the postseason hits.
The Hoosac Valley boys' 400-meter relay team is all new to track and field this year. They've relied on pure speed to help them hit the mark for Western Mass. Now that they have qualified, it will allow them to not worry about winning right away and focus on perfecting their form and handoffs.
The format also allows athletes to rest, not only while recovering from injuries, but also to prevent them.
Mount Greylock's Jenna Phelps finished fourth in the state in the 400 hurdles last season. She entered this season with a few goals in mind. One of those was qualifying for the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association meet. She did that and qualified for Western Mass. on Friday.
"I think I'm done with the 400 hurdles for a while," she said after the meet. "I'll go to the 400 for a while. It's just so much faster and really helps your training for the hurdles. Then in a couple of weeks, I'll go back to the hurdles."
Phelps also ran in the 100 hurdles Friday. She did it because her coach believed it would help her training for the 400 hurdles.
"As you progress in track, you learn to do what your coach tells you," Phelps said. "You do whatever you need to in order to help yourself and help the team. You learn to be more flexible."
That flexibility helps everyone in the long run. Not only can it help an athlete stay healthy and in shape, but it can also keep them focused.
"Running the mile all year is tiring, not just physically but mentally," said Kaegi. By switching it up you get to use other muscles and it helps you stay focused on your main events. It can help your training by doing different things."
That's especially true for hurdlers. Running and jumping consistently can cause injuries too.
"You can't do hurdles everyday," Marceau said. "When I'm not doing hurdles, working hard at the 200 or doing some 800 and that's what you need to do. It can keep you focused and it helps keep your stamina up."
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