By Caroline Gordon
Sophomores Mollie Pimentel and Emily Newcomb desperately hope for a track meet – preferably not a virtual one.
Pimentel, a thrower, picked up her first shot put in the seventh grade. Newcomb, a cross country athlete, has yet to run at a track meet due to COVID-19.
Newcomb said Coach Scott VanderMolen convinced her to run track.
The 800-meter race is the event Newcomb said she is eager to compete in.
She said the 800-meter run makes her feel like she is “flying.”
As a multi-sport athlete in high school, Newcomb said she has both fast and slow twitch muscles, making her physically fit to run the half-mile race.
Although Newcomb’s rookie track season was canceled last spring, she said she is excited about this season.
“I love the feeling of running fast. I just want to be at a meet with the atmosphere of my teammates cheering each other on. I would do anything to compete with my team right now,” Newcomb said.
She said after practice, the team grabs food in the Dining Commons “red room,” and that the time spent together strengthens their bonds.
Newcomb said they talk for hours and eat food all night, describing those times as some of the best she has ever had.
She added that the pandemic left her feeling isolated, and it felt good to reconnect with her teammates this season for practice.
“The team is so funny and energetic. I love being around them. We are like puzzle pieces – we all fit together perfectly,” Newcomb said.
Pimentel agreed saying she feels motivated by her teammates, particularly captains Ashley Bosch and Eliza Weisse, both juniors.
Pimentel said Weisse is “always happy” and positive despite aspects such as the weather or the kind of day she is having.
She said Bosch “keeps everybody on track.”
Newcomb said she is not inspired by any particular people, because the team has “camaraderie.”
She said the team is diverse as there are “runners of all capabilities,” but everyone sees each other as equal.
Both athletes agree coaches VanderMolen and Mark Johnson have helped the team through the pandemic.
Newcomb said the team calls VanderMolen the “yin” and Johnson the “yang” as VanderMolen is “sweet and encouraging” and Johnson tells people to “get on the horse.”
Pimentel said both coaches do a great job at making sure the team knows techniques and that they are always available to answer the athletes’ questions.
They discussed their student-athlete schedules.
Newcomb said virtual track meets might be part of the routine this season.
She said virtual meets are when coaches take videos of the athletes performing on their home track and field, without a crowd. Then they send the videos to coaches from other schools to compare times.
In regard to balancing academics and track during a pandemic, Newcomb said she likes having a rigorous schedule because COVID-19 took away her routine last spring.
She said having practice five days a week between 4:30 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. has motivated her to get her homework done and “go to bed at a reasonable hour” for the next day’s practice.
“It’s definitely been all about the routine,” Newcomb said.
Pimentel also said track keeps her academically motivated, teaches her better time-management skills, and helps her juggle an on-campus job.
“I make sure I get my work done because if I am not doing well in academics, I can’t practice or go to meets,” she said.
In terms of the team’s workout schedule, Pimentel said it has changed due to COVID-19.
Pre-pandemic, she said there would be 15-to-20 track athletes doing workouts together such as stretching and lifting.
“A lot of people did not return because of COVID-19. Now there are 10-to-12 of us,” Pimentel said.
She described how the team breaks up into smaller groups of six for stretching.
Pimentel said foam rollers were shared pre-COVID-19 but now everyone must use their own and if someone wants to share, it needs to be disinfected by one of the trainers.
Both Pimentel and Bosch said despite canceling last season, there have been positive outcomes because of COVID-19.
Pimentel said COVID-19 makes her want to work harder for this season as last season she could not compete.
“I look at it now like I have to fit two seasons of track into one, so I have been training more,” she said.
Pimentel added, “I just cannot wait to attend a meet!”
She said the team has coped well with the pandemic and they are “very optimistic about this season.”
Newcomb discussed how COVID-19 has brought the team closer together.
She said the pandemic has shown her that her teammates care about her o_ the track, as they still kept in contact during quarantine.
“I can’t say I’ve ever had that close of a relationship with any of my teammates in the past,” Newcomb said.
She discussed what running means to her and how it helped her through the pandemic.
Newcomb said running has been “an escape” for her and some teammates, but for others, it can remind them of the season they lost.
Both Pimentel and Newcomb offered advice to FSU student-athletes who have been affected by COVID-19.
Pimentel said, “Don’t be upset. Don’t think of it as a setback. I feel like I was really discouraged last year that my season got canceled and I know other athletes had to deal with that as well. You can take the months you had off to cry about it or you can keep training to make yourself ready for when there is competition.”
She added, “We can’t change the pandemic.”
Newcomb said, “Stay hopeful. Keep looking forward to the next competition because one day it’s going to come back and when it’s all said and done it’s going to come down to who trained and who didn’t.
“Stick with it!” she said.