If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in almost 20 years of being around high-school athletics, it’s this: track and field is a different beast.
Yes, it takes an incredible amount of athleticism and dedication to be the best. It’s what separates the very best from the rest of the pack. But it’s also about far more than the physical aspect of it — the mental game is perhaps even more important.
It’s amazing what the human body can do when you set your mind to something. Even if your body says “no,” if your brain says “yes,” your brain often wins out. It can make the difference between winning and losing, which in track and field can be mere fractions of a second or fractions of an inch.
And when the weather’s bad, the mental game becomes even more important. It would have been easy for the sprinters in the 100-meter dash at Stansbury’s home track meet Wednesday to just throw their hands up when a strong headwind began blowing from the south just before their race started. It could have affected the outcome of the race, had the top sprinters allowed the difficult conditions to get into their heads. But, they didn’t. It was no surprise to see Stansbury’s Silas Young at the top of the leaderboard when all was said and done.
Likewise, when the wind shifted at the end of the meet and sent temperatures plummeting, the runners in the 200-meter dash could have been completely thrown off and started worrying about how cold they were instead of just running their race. Instead, two of the stars of the day in Stansbury’s Xander Littlefield and Tooele’s Makenna McCloy capped an impressive afternoon with big wins in their final races.
In conditions that sent most scurrying for their cars (myself included), these athletes weren’t done. It would be easy, especially early in the season, to let things they can’t control affect the way they compete. There are many more track meets to come — and many more opportunities to qualify for the state championships, so it would have been understandable if they would have decided to take it easy on Wednesday.
But that’s not how true competitors are wired. They’re going to give it their all, no matter what the situation. And that’s what separates the best from the rest.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He was never fast enough, let alone resilient enough, to compete in track and field. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.