Typical track and field
YOUNGSTOWN — A small contingent of spectators and parents sits on top of the aluminum bleachers at Farmers National Bank Field.
There are even more down at the Smokey Hollow throwing area, and hundreds of 2020 graduates can be seen wearing their black caps and gowns as they exit Stambaugh Stadium with the late-spring sun setting following a graduation ceremony a year overdue.
Slowly but surely, things are starting to look a little normal around Youngstown State’s track and field teams. But what isn’t abnormal are the standings after the first day of competition of the Horizon League Championship meet.
The men tallied 41 points, leading second-place Oakland, which has 25. On the women’s side, the Penguins recorded 35 points and Robert Morris sits in second place with 24 points after the first day of competition.
Coming off of team wins in the indoor season, YSU has still had to overcome the adversity of training and competing during unprecedented times, something that all comes down to the individual’s mindset.
“It takes a lot of inner work I’ve really been focusing on because I realize that during meets, I would get in a bad mental state and then mess up my throwing,” YSU junior thrower Sammy Dyson said. She placed third in the discus Friday afternoon.
“This year, I really focused on going to therapy, going to counseling, working on myself spiritually, finding God, making sure there’s God within yourself too, and that balanced me out too,” she added.
“It’s a very individual sport, so it’s really a lot of self-reflecting, and that’s what really helps you grow as a person. You have to love yourself within too, being able to grow within the sport as well, you have to have your own back.”
That growth led to a distance of 46.72 meters in the discus, a mark that is the third-best in school history, and a new personal-best for Dyson.
Despite the success, discus isn’t Dyson’s personal favorite event, that would be the hammer throw, which involves a lot of upper body strength and even more momentum.
“You go really fast, and I like going fast, it’s fun to do and I just started it here in my freshman year of college,” Dyson said. “Really, putting in the extra work (for discus) too, I would watch YouTube videos. I would always practice my technique, I would practice in my backyard, you really have to stay focused.”
Sean Peterson, running a time 4:01:62 Friday evening, qualified for the 1500m finals scheduled Sunday afternoon. He’ll also compete in the 800-meter preliminary this afternoon, and will also look for his second straight title in the event over the weekend. He would be the only outdoor runner in YSU history to do so.
When it comes to spacing out dozens of meets over an indoor and outdoor season, it’s keeping focus off the track at times that helps keep an athlete’s mind sharp.
“A lot of people do focus on racing the clock, I’ve been there, and the most important thing for a conference weekend is to just remember that none of your times matter, all that matters is beating the people against you on the line,” Peterson said “So, that’s really the big big goal this weekend is to just get in front of those people.
“I really like to limit on how much I’m thinking of my races, outside when I’m not thinking of track, I want to be watching movies, playing Madden and Warzone, hanging with my friends, and just really limit how much mental energy I’m putting into this. Because I know that once I get here I’m going to map out my strategy.”
Peterson came into the outdoor circuit after winning the Alfreeda Goff Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year, with wins in the 800 and the mile during the indoor meet.
As one of the older Penguins, he’s just relieved to be back in a more normal setting after last season’s outdoor meet at Oakland was canceled. The indoor meet this season at Purdue Fort Wayne was held without fans or parents in attendance, with athletes being bussed back and forth every day.
“This is way more normal, it was much more of a mental battle in indoor, when you have no one cheering for you, and you can hear the echoes literally in the track arena. Having this and having your teammates cheer you on is a great feeling.
“It’s been a big adjustment, I just think that speaks to how nimble we all are in this day and age,” Peterson said. “Everyone was just able to get a good grasp on everything in a couple of months and just able to readjust our lives, and not having practices and having no season, and just keeping everything afloat.”