May 21, 2014

My Championship Experience – 2014 Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

North Dakota State senior Alec Espeland writes about his experience at the 2014 Summit League Outdoor Track and Field Championships:

Friday, May 16th
8:15 a.m. – I woke up to that all familiar jingle on my iPhone and rolled out of bed to start my day. This morning was a pretty special morning because I was going to breakfast with my grandparents who flew up from Arizona for the last track meet of my collegiate career. I was looking forward to spending time with them, and getting the much needed caffeine (from coffee of course) flowing through my veins. We went to Panera Bread Co. and had a great time together.

10:45 a.m. – I got back to the apartment to relax and take care of some paperwork and write some essays to get a head start on my applications for medical schools. It was tough to think at this time because I was feeling a lot of emotions from both the approach of my last track meet and the nearing of the end of my track career. I’ve been running competitively since I was a sixth grader! A lot of miles on these legs of mine…

12:00 p.m. – It was about this time that I decided to put down the paperwork, turn off the TV and get something to eat. It’s usually about 5 hours before I race I tend to eat whatever meal, breakfast or lunch. Today I decided to hit up Subway, every runners quick and easy lunch companion. It was about this time that the nerves began to kick in. Thoughts of racing began to invade my mind and I knew that my body was beginning to prepare itself for a battle today. In the back of my mind however I knew that today, although important, was going to be somewhat easier than tomorrow’s races due to the fact that today was simply a prelim, and I was ranked first going in. The never-ending mental game of preparation for racing of track and field continued.

2:00 p.m. – By this time my mind was wondering and thoughts of racing were becoming somewhat overwhelming; I needed a break. What better way to “get away” from things than to nap! So I hit the couch for a little R & R to drift off into whatever scenarios my subconscious decided to create. (before however I must mention that alarms were set!)

3:00 p.m. – PREP TIME. I awoke from a sleepy stupor to start moving around, fully wake up, and get ready to head to the track.

5:40 p.m. – RACE TIME. Going into today’s race I had only one goal and that was to qualify for finals. I had to luxury of running fairly conservatively due to the lack of depth of the field in the 800 meters this year. There are about four runners who have a shot at taking the crown this year in the finals, however out of a field of 11 guys total, nine were going to move forward. Knowing this I knew I had a great shot at controlling my race and coasting into a qualifying spot.

5:41 p.m. – Gun goes off. Race went just as planned…moving onto the finals the next day.

7:30 p.m. – Supper was catered for our team at our indoor track facility, senior speeches were given and an evening of relaxing and preparing for the races to come in the morning began.

Saturday, May 17th  
7:30 a.m. – I woke up after a pretty restless night of sleep just due to the thoughts of racing, and ending my track career today. The morning was somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster; I knew I had to prepare mentally for my races throughout the day, but my mind was also occupied with reminiscing over my years at NDSU. I just focused on staying occupied throughout the morning hours and went through my race day routine as I normally would. I ate a good breakfast and started to just relax and drink coffee to pass the time. It’s tough to describe the emotions that a person feels when you’re put in a position of having a big part of your life come to an end so abruptly, in my instance in a matter of two hours (I raced at 12:50 p.m., and my last lap as a Bison was at 2:00 p.m.). All of this was on my mind as I tried to sit and ready myself. I knew that the day was going to be difficult. With the 1,500 meters to begin with, I knew that if I was going to end my career as a Summit League Event Champion, the 1,500 meters was my best shot because it was my first race.

11:00 a.m. – For the last time in my life, I drove to Schlanser Track. I knew I was ready to do whatever it took in my own power to help my team end the 2014 outdoor track season as Summit League Champions.

12:50 p.m. – The gun went off. The 1,500 meters was under way. It was a little breezy for this race, but I had a game plan in my mind and was going to stick to it. I took off the line fairly hard and put myself in good position as not to get caught up in the crowd of runners. Coming around the first corner I was in the lead (not what I wanted). Thankfully, one of my competitors decided to go around and take the lead. I knew that all I had to do was stay within range of the leader. I knew that if I was within a comfortable range with one lap to go that I could rely on my 400/800 meters speed to close that gap and outkick whoever it had to be in the last 100-200 meters of the race, and so, the game began. I sat in second place for the entire race, just counting the laps as they went by, listening to the splits, and waiting. Coming into the last lap, I pulled up even with the leader and ran on his outside shoulder. Racing into the final 300 meters, I began to surge and pull away from the field. At 200 meters to go I surged yet again, making sure that I still had one last gear to use for the home stretch. With 100 meters left in the race, I finally bumped up to my closing speed and gave it all I had and thankfully, to my enjoyment and elation, I was successful in winning my last 1,500 meters race as a Bison and could end my career as a Summit League Event Champion. Once the race was over however my excitement turned back into mental preparation again for my next event (800 meters) that was in about an hour.

1:30 p.m. – I got up from sitting, stretching and relaxing and started to move around a little. I knew I didn’t have to do much warming up since I had literally just raced, but I killed a little time, did some striders, some light stretching, and threw on the spikes again for my last 800 meters of my collegiate career.

2:00 p.m. – The gun goes off. The 800 meters was out in full steam. My plan was to expend as little energy as possible during the first lap and just let people pull me along. It worked out okay, but not great due to the fact that the leaders went out fairly fast. By the time I hit the bell lap I was caught in “no-mans land”. I was about 10 meters off of the lead pack, and about 10 meters ahead of the chase pack. I began to push and speed up going into the last 200 meters and with 150 meters left I was all out and giving it everything I had, to my surprise I was gaining on the leaders. However, I ran out of race and settled for a fourth place finish. I had teammates place first and second and was so incredibly happy for them and our team that my personal time and place didn’t faze me for a second. After all, track is both an individual and a team sport, but at a conference meet it’s all about the team. By this time we had a sizeable gap on the team in second place, but I knew that it was going to be close come the end of the track meet.

3:15 p.m. – Here it all finally comes to light, the race for the team title came down to the last event, the 4x400 meter relay. We had led in team points the entire meet, but we got caught. Not only were we caught, we were passed and now behind by two points. I have been a part of NDSU’s 4x400 meter relay team since I began competing for them back in 2010, but today, with what was on the line, I decided to give up my spot on the team for a younger, fresher pair of legs. I knew that if my team needed me that I could and would run, but also in the back of my mind I knew that this was my third event in less than three hours and I was somewhat doubtful that I could run as fast as some of my other teammates who ran 400’s as well. My coach and I made the decision for me to sit this last one out in hopes of winning the team title. This is what we had to do, win. If we lost, we took second. If we won, we tied.

3:25 p.m. – The gun goes off. The race that will decide who will be the 2014 Summit League Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Champion is underway. It was the most exciting race of my college career, even though I wasn’t running. We raced back and forth from backstretch to homestretch as a team to cheer on our teammates as they fought and raced for us all. It was a battle, but luck and speed were on our side that day and we were crowned “co-champions” with South Dakota. Obviously, it’s a strange situation to say that two teams tied in a track meet that spanned three days, but we were all champions that day none-the-less. I was able to cap off my career as a Bison in style, in class, and as a champion.

In closing I want to thank The Summit League for my experiences at these championships over the past four years. This last conference meet for me was by far one of my most memorable, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and commitment you have to the athletes who call The Summit League “home”.  I next want to thank the coaching staff at NDSU. I came into NDSU’s program as an immature freshman, and am leaving as a seasoned, well-conditioned, “battle-tested” athlete and will always remember the impact each of you had in my life. To my teammates, thanks for the years of the incredible memories that I’ll never forget. You pushed me to be the best that I could be and allowed me to become a part of your lives. My years spent at NDSU have been the best of my life thus far. Thank you.

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Baseball Championship, May 22-24 and throughout the 2013-14 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

1 comment:

  1. Alec, I miss watching you run. Having followed you thru Pierre SD high school track with Parker and Matt. Good luck to you in the future.
    Paul Miller Selby SD