By Patrick Murphy
For most athletes, conditioning is the most difficult and dreaded aspect of sports. Track is a sport that exclusively consists of conditioning. To most people, the Macalester men’s track and field team might just seem like gluttons for punishment, but the runners on the team would tell you that they run track because they actually enjoy running- a truly novel concept.The degree of physical suffering varies on the type of event that an athlete specializes in. For example, sprinters train with a combination of running and weightlifting. Distance runners spend less time in the weight room and more time pounding pavement- logging heavy miles on the roads around Macalester during the week.Note that the sport is track and field. The field athletes don’t have to run like the track athletes do, but they too devout countless hours to their specialized craft. The field events consist of jumping and throwing events. Among the jumping events are the long jump, high jump, and triple jump. The throwing events are the shot put and weight throw. The pole vault is something of a freak event that consists of the athlete sprinting down a narrow runway with a 12-foot pole that they plant into the ground, hurling themselves through the air. The object of the pole vault is to vault oneself over the bar in Tarzan-like fashion. As a former distance runner, I have a distinct appreciation for what the distance runners on the team do. Distance running is about as unglamorous as sports can get. There’s nothing glamorous about going out for an eight mile run alone in the cold rain. The distance runners on the Mac team realize that pain and sacrifice is the name of the game, and they are good at what they do. “The distance runners really respect each other, because everybody is giving everything they have day in and day out,” said 800m runner Owen Burbank ’12. “Despite the grueling workouts, the mood is generally light at practice, people joke around and there are plenty of laughs.”Among the top distance runners on the team are Wade Ekstrom ’10, Carl Biggers ’12, Nick Mangigian ’10, Jo Schubert ‘12,3 and Ollie St. John ’12. Ekstrom, a mile specialist, is the top runner on the entire team. “Wade is the team leader; he is very respected by Coach Matt and the distance guys, as well as the whole team,” Burbank said. “Not only for his speed but also work ethic, and attitude. He’s also a really funny.”At the MIAC indoor track and field meet March 5, Ekstrom placed third in the mile run with a time of 4:18, which qualified him for all-conference honors. St. John also turned in a solid effort in the 3000-meter run with a time of 8:56, placing 11th in the event.Track and field is unique in that within the spring season there are two distinct seasons. The indoor season begins in January and goes through early March. After the indoor season comes to an end with the conference meet, there is a month break for the athletes before the start of the outdoor season. This break can be a time for injured runners to recover before the start of the outdoor season or a time for healthy runners to vamp up their training in preparation for the outdoor season. The outdoor MIAC championships begin May 14 at St. Mary’s in Winona, Minn.