Millennium Track Team Takes Off

Agatha Ryan, Staff Writer

The sun is shining bright into the stands of Icahn Stadium, where the Millennium Track Team is gathered on the track rubber. Parents, grandparents and friends are cheering in the stands, and an air of nervousness buzzes around the students. Winter track season has begun, and the team is already off to a solid start; the popular team has recruited a record 80 students this year. 

Coaches Nagano and Hines lead the club. Track and Field is a co-ed sport where students race varying distances around a 400-m arena. There are sprints, short distance, middle distance and long distance races. In the winter, track is a club where students have a less rigorous schedule, practicing after school two or three times a week. Starting in the spring, track becomes a competition-based sport and students practice five times a week. 

Coach Nagano explains that “each individual has a different reason for running. Some people love the sport and they do it because it’s showing themselves that they are capable of more than they think, and I think there are people who just really love running.” No matter the reason students join track, it can be difficult for the team to live up to the standards of the other NYC high schools. Since Millennium doesn’t have a track, all the runners have to hike up to Washington Heights Armory via train. The trip can be slow and often the ride cuts into practice time. The students must have a lot of dedication to the team and willingness to run to keep up with the commitment. A lot of people who aren’t runners don’t understand the level of training that the students go through just to run a race. Most people know what it feels like to run, but the athletes on the team train intensely so that when they run, it’s more than just running like when you have to, to catch the bus or get a spot in line, running to the students is about feeling strong and powerful.

To some, track might not seem like an especially difficult sport, but Coach Nagano warns that students can easily get injured if they are not fit or physically prepared enough.  Nagano says that, likely because of the rigorous winter training schedule, “Every single year our spring track team is becoming increasingly competitive. The fact that we are able to compete at the level that we are, I’m actually really proud of the hard work and dedication that the kids put in.”

So what’s the difference between Track and Field and Cross Country? Cross country has rougher terrain and the students run longer distances. “They’re running through the woods, running on dirt, they’re running on hills,” says Nagano. In track there are a multitude of  races that are run on a rubber loop, the shortest starting at 100 meters. There are also relays such as 4×100, 4×200, 4×400 and 4×800.  Despite the differences, many students jump from cross country to winter track club to the spring track team. There are different girls and boys races in winter track. The longest boys’ race is 3200 meters and the longest girls is 3000. Coach Nagano thinks that the difference is sexist. “[The idea] that girls can’t handle running the 200 metres more is stupid.”

The meets can be especially thrilling for the athletes on the team. During the winter track season, the team only competes in two meets at the end of the season, but in spring track there are biweekly races. Since there are so few winter track events, students experience increased anticipation and pressure around them.  Adam Elsayad, a senior, says that the meets are very intimidating because you are being watched by everyone in the stadium. He says that it feels as though “you’re not racing against other people; you are racing against yourself. It feels like there’s a lot of pressure.” The adrenaline is high. Maybe there’s a college recruiter somewhere in the stands or maybe a runner wants to impress their family or break their best time. Although all the runners are nervous for a different reason, they all want to win. 

Elsayad says that overall, “We love it a lot … it’s not that hard of a sport.”  He and fellow senior runners Jose Romero and Philip Czudak agree that, Some of the freshmen can be annoying, especially the ones that have never ran before, but you just have to teach them how.”  Romero, this year’s team captain, says that “it’s very stressful but I’m very excited to help the team.” Track may seem like an individual sport, but the Millennium team works together with sportsmanship and enthusiasm to keep on running!