This summer, the men's cross country team and the women's field hockey team took flight to hone their skills in unusual—and gorgeous—locales.
Taking Summer Training to New Heights
A group of Mustang men's cross country student-athletes took their traditional summer training to a new level this summer. Instead of running on trails, streets, and tracks close to home, seven of them traveled to Flagstaff, Ariz. for the month of July to train and live together at an altitude of more than 6,900 feet.
Last year, three Mustang cross country runners, Brett Olin, Jackson Morrow, and Sam Mercoli, went to Flagstaff and the improvement in their subsequent performance was noticeable, not only to themselves but also to their teammates, sparking more interest in this year's trip.
In early July, Langston Gash, Olin, Mercoli, Anthony Mercoli, Ryan Siegel, Patrick Watson, and incoming freshman Aditya Singh rented a house in Flagstaff to begin their training. A typical day consisted of a run early in the morning after waking up around 6 a.m.; some days added a second run in the afternoon.
Team Coach David Berdan, a Hall-of-Fame distance runner at Elizabethtown College and later a two-time winner of the Baltimore Marathon, gave Olin and his teammates the initial idea to train at altitude. Berdan sent workouts and mileage each week for the team to follow.
Training at altitude, with thinner air, is an adjustment for any athlete. Olin warned his teammates about just that. "I'll be honest, it was rough that first week out there [last year]," says Olin. "The altitude kind of made it so something that would be considered an easy pace here was difficult. I made it a point to tell my teammates that hadn't experienced it that it was going to feel a little different and not to worry about pace and how fast you're going."
Perhaps more important than the group's training runs, however, was the time not spent running. The vast amounts of downtime allowed the group to explore their new West Coast surroundings and to get to know each other better away from cross country.
"I'd love to get more guys out there," says Gash. "It was a fun experience, you get to know the guys on the team. I'd like for more guys on the team to experience that." If the Mustangs can better their best MAC finish of fifth, the group should have little trouble convincing others to join them in Arizona next summer.
Field Hockey Travels to Barbados for Preseason Training
To prepare for the 2017 season, the Stevenson field hockey team made a trip to the Eastern Caribbean island of Barbados, where they trained and competed in the Barbados Hockey Festival.
"I had done some abroad trips in the past and every year that I had done it I had found it was such a wonderful event for the girls," explains Head Coach Laurel Martin. "To see and learn about different cultures and to have team bonding was amazing."
The Mustangs competed in three friendlies and had four training sessions on the trip. Teams competing in the tournament included club teams from both England and Ireland as well as the Barbados National and Junior National teams.
"We got to play on an AstroTurf field, which was a true advantage because it is a faster surface and helps sharpen our skills," says Martin. "It is a surface we very rarely get to participate on and it is one the top NCAA teams get to play on regularly. Overall, it was a great opportunity to play on a preferred surface and to grow and bond."
The team also got to enjoy the island, partaking in the Cool Running Catamaran trip where they were able to sail the Caribbean Sea and swim with tropical fish and green turtles. The Mustangs also had free time to explore the town where they stayed, St. Lawrence Gap, which is one of the best-known towns on the island of Barbados. Before the team returned home, they had time in Bridgetown, the island''s largest and most vibrant city.
"This trip was an advantage because you get to play more games and prepare for your regular season," Martin adds. "It was a win across the board."
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