College T&F notes: Sayre's Card tries a second sport
When the winter sports season started Sayre graduate Riley Card was making a tough transition.
The 6-foot, 6-inch former Redskins star was trying to adjust to college basketball at Oneonta.
Like many big men who make the transition to college there has been a learning curve for Card, who has averaged 1.3 points in 4.3 minutes in the nine games he has played this year.
"In high school it was really fun, I was usually taller than everyone else by two or three inches," Card said. "Now, kids are two or three inches taller than me and a lot stronger. It is definitely a change. If you plan to come right out of high school and start you should just give up. That doesn't happen. You have to work hard at it."
For Card the first year has meant adding weight and getting stronger day by day.
"I work out three times a week, I have gotten a lot stronger," he said. "I have gained 25 pounds since I have been here and it's a lot more strength in my legs and my arms."
Along with being a star basketball player in high school Card was also a state qualifier in the high jump.
However, he thought when he got to Oneonta those days were over. He thought that until the coaches approached him about trying a second sport in college.
"I just planned to do basketball," he said. "The coach came up to me and talked to me and he asked how high I jumped in high school and I said 6-6, actually 6-5 3/4 and he said I should try it because there was no one else on the team who had jumped over 6-2 to 6-4."
Just like that Card became a two-sport college athlete and the transition in track and field has been just as tough as his adjustment on the basketball court.
His first meet was recently at Cornell and he failed to make the opening height of 6-feet.
For Card that first meet was about getting his form back, but it also took some getting used to with the opening height in college.
"I'm used to starting at 5-8 or 5-10 at a lower height to build some confidence," Card said. "Today was more of a form thing, I haven't jumped in almost a year."
Another adjustment for Card is getting used to high jumping with the added weight he has put on for basketball season.
While all of this can be challenging, Card believes that high jumping will help him in basketball as well.
"It definitely will," he said. "It will get my legs stronger and when I get to better jump heights my vertical will increase a couple inches as well."
For Card every day is about working and learning more and more.
Just as he is working on his form for the high jump he is also working on his moves on the basketball court.
"I work on my moves every single day," he said. "You can't just go and throw a hook every time and think it will work. The first time in practice I did something and it worked. But, then people adjusted. The players basketball IQ is a lot higher here and they learn how to stop you quickly so you have to keep working to get better."
BIG GOALS FOR LOPES
For Mansfield's Olivia Lopes the goal every time she steps on the track is simple.
It can be summed up in one word - greatness.
"I really am happy," Lopes said of the way she has run this indoor season. "I just really want to improve my times and I want to work harder."
Before the season Lopes set out a clear mindset of what she hoped to accomplish in her career.
She wanted to break school records.
She wanted set a legacy for sprinters at Mansfield University.
And most of all, she wanted to earn a trip to nationals.
"That's been my goal since I learned of nationals when I was younger," Lopes said. "I am so close, but I'm not close at all. So because of that I'm not where I want to be."
It might seem odd to think she is close, but not close at the same time, but it's also the reality of college track and field.
Lopes has provisionally qualified for nationals. However, she knows she likely needs to be faster for her time to hold up and get her to that ultimate goal.
"It used to make me upset," Lopes said of provisionally qualifying without outright earning a spot in nationals. "Now it just makes me work harder. I am doing what I am supposed to do, but so are the other girls."
Lopes has started to check off a number of her college goals. The sprinting records at Mansfield are hers and she is leaving a legacy that will be hard to forget.
However, she knows she can still improve her times and get herself to nationals.
"With the 60 the more I do it thee more I get that ah ha feeling," Lopes said. "Coach asks me each time if I go it this time and I am getting there. There is room for improvement in the 200. I know for one thing the main focus is my first 50 meters. I have to be fast in those first 50 meters. With the 300 the more I run it, the easier it gets."
One of the challenges for Lopes the past couple of weeks was being rested for PSAC's, where she earned all-conference honors this weekend, but also getting enough races in to try and get her times down to reach nationals.
"I need to stay fresh, but at the same time I need the extra meets to run the 60 and 200 and keep racing more," Lopes said.
In order to get rest Lopes had races like at Cornell a week and a half ago when she ran the prelims for the 60, but scratched out of the finals to get rest.
It seems odd to Lopes who like many runners was used to running four events every meet in high school. However, she has found that college is a lot more demanding than high school running.
"The first time I ever ran three events this year I did the 60, the 200 and the 400 and the next day you couldn't get me out of bed," Lopes said. "I always ran two relays and the 100 and 200 in high school and it was not that weird and I was fine after. Now you run so much harder that if I run three events I don't want to get up the next day."
Along with reaching her own goals in college one new thing has happened for Lopes this year, she has gotten a chance to work with a lot of younger runners like Allison Macon.
"I call all my girls my little dumplings," Lopes said. "When they make PSAC's I am so proud of them. I work with Allison more than anyone else and it's a lot of fun. I get so happy when they make PSACs because I know that's their next goal and it's the same as my goals. It's nice to have people look up to me and I know they want to do great and make nationals just like I do."
A BIG JUMP FROM H.S. TO COLLEGE
In high school Sydney Williams was one of the best runners in Section IV.
The Susquehanna Valley graduate was a sectional champion in cross country and track and field.
She was a state qualifier and an all-state runner.
Now Williams is a sophomore at Cornell and she has to adjust to having other runners, even other teammates, who are just as faster or faster than her.
"It's an adjustment," she said. "Mentally, physically it is tough. You have to work and progress each year in college."
While it can be tough to go from the dominant runner in high school to one of many great runners in college, there are also lots of advantages that come with the transition.
"The competition is different when you make the transition from high school to college," Williams said. "The workouts are a lot different to. In high school you do a lot of things on your own, now you have the support of a huge team that pushes you along."
One thing that can be hard to get used to with college running is watching runners pull away in races when you are always used to running in the front of the pack.
"It's easier when they are super fast to let them go," Williams said. "It's definitely an adjustment but it's one you have to make when you run in college."
The biggest thing that Williams and other great high school runners have to get used to in college is keeping their own pace and not just trying to run in the front of the pack every race.
"I think college teaches you to listen to your own body more," Williams said. "In high school you are used to being in front and not really knowing how fast you are going. Now you have to know what you can do and not try and keep up with everyone else."
In high school Williams didn't have indoor track and field and while this is her sophomore year of college, it's her first real taste of indoor running.
"It's my first real indoor season because I was hurt last season," she said. "It's really a great atmosphere."
Right now Williams is learning from some of her older teammates, seeing the success they have and working to try and get to that point.
"It really motivates you," she said. "You see your teammates work hard and you want to work the way they are."
While her high school days are over, running in college for Cornell means plenty of opportunities to run with, and against, other former Section IV runners at the college level.
"It's fun, you feel connected to home when you are away from home," she said.