A grueling week of post-holiday workouts led several members of the men’s and women’s track teams to record-breaking finishes at the teams’ first indoor showing of the season Jan. 11.
At the Vulcan Invitational in Birmingham, Alabama, multiple Harding competitors began the season with personal successes. Freshman pole vaulter Sierra White beat an indoor track and field school record with a height of 3.65 meters, and junior shot putter Cara Mason also added her name to the Harding record book with a distance of 3.07 meters. Junior Kinga Szarzynska won the 800-meter race to round out the women’s team’s success.
On the men’s team, freshman Dakarai Bush broke a Harding record for indoor 200 meters with a time of 22.23 seconds.
Head coach Don Hood said calling some of the athletes back to campus a week early from the holiday break was a new strategy to Harding. He hoped a pre-semester meet would provide motivation to train during the weeks away.
“Christmas break is so long,” Hood said. “It’s four weeks, sometimes five weeks, and we work August, September, October, November — and then they disappear for four weeks. So the challenge is to give them a reason to keep working out during the holidays.”
Eight to 10 members of each of the teams were selected to return to campus early to train together for a week before attending the Vulcan Invitational. Mason said this new opportunity was just what she needed, as evidenced by the results.
“I’ve been throwing really well in practice and just have been making some big improvements,” Mason said. “Not having Coach over the break kind of set me back a little bit, but that week we got back, I got back in the swing of things, so I was feeling good.”
White also felt good as she broke a school record at her first collegiate meet, but her drive to improve has not abated in the slightest; if anything, she said she is more determined than ever to continue vaulting higher. White said her finish was not even her personal record.
“I’m really looking forward to this season,” White said. “The fact that I cleared 12 feet at my first meet in indoor season already [has me] looking forward to hopefully breaking a little bit more records and hopefully beating my PR. The outdoor school record is 12 feet, six inches. I’m hoping to get that by the end of indoor season.”
With a new coach, new training practices and new faces on the track, the men’s and women’s teams officially headed into the 2020 season. Both Mason and White said they look forward to the potential for big wins in the coming months.
“I’m excited,” Mason said. “My teammates are really, really good … Our throwers are just top notch.”
Hood echoed the hopeful sentiments, saying he has already been impressed with the athletes, both on and off the track.
“I’m just very impressed with the quality of the athletes we have, as people and students and Christians and competitors,” Hood said. “We’ve got a real good mix here … I think this place has a lot of potential to build an even better program. It’s going to be fun.”