Olivia Ruiz (332) raced out to be the first leader early on at the SoCal Preview Meet in Mission Bay. Photo provided by the PCC Athletics Department
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Cross-country is tentatively having its first meet in February and its last meet in April. April is set to be the start for the track and field season. This means the cross-country season will overlap into the beginning of the track season, according to Head Coach Innocent Egbunike in an email. 

“We are hoping that with the way we train the athletes, we will not have any injuries,” said Egbunike. “But if we do, we have very capable athletic trainers that will help keep our athletes healthy.”

The track and field team is larger than cross-country and has a variety of events including sprinters, jumpers, pole vaulters, shot put, and runners. Lancers who participate in track and field have the option to compete in more than one event if they wish.

Meline Minasian is a dual student-athlete for women’s cross-country and women’s track and field. Last year she made it to the state meet in November. She was also a dual student-athlete in high school running track and cross country. 

In high school, the transition from coming out of track training and going into cross-country training, made her increase her running mileage. She went from running two miles a day to 10 miles a day. She developed an overuse injury: IT band injury. The iliotibial (IT) band is a fibrous band running down from your hip to your knee. When an athlete runs too much, it can cause too much stress on the fibrous band. 

Minasian used to meet with the cross-country team every morning for training in an open field and started with a ten minute warm-up. Next, the women would run a mile-and-a-half to two miles followed by stretching and walking drills. After a water break, they would go out for a run on trails. On workout days they would warm up further for their harder and faster workouts. Training for track and field is the same except on a track setting, not an open field.

In cross-country competition women only run a 5k (3.1 miles) distance race. Competitions are between different schools and different levels of athletes. In track and field women can choose their own event and can run up to four events if they want to.

Olivia Ruiz is also a sophomore dual student-athlete in both women’s cross-country and track and field. She runs the women’s 4×400 relay and the 800-meters – both are her favorite events to run. In the past Ruiz has been affected by shin splints and a knee injury, but remains positive about the season overlap.

“Personally, I am a little worried about it overlapping but I’m sure the coaches won’t put us in a position to injure ourselves. We just have to be cautious not to get hurt and not to get burned out,” said Ruiz in an email.

Regarding energy and injury, a student-athlete and their coach set up a relationship to combat injury. A dual student-athlete can combat overworking the body in a healthy way with icing, foam rolling, or physical therapy for areas the athlete isn’t strong in. Lancer athletic trainers always recommend that student-athletes come see them when they are not feeling well.

Alec Fernandez is another dual student-athlete. He has been running for two seasons and likes competing in the fast distance events in track and field. Since the pandemic, his team has become more flexible with changes; he is optimistic about future challenges that may evolve the teams’ way of practicing and competing.

“I think we’re ready to just try to move on in the direction that we want to end up in and it doesn’t really matter if we have to work a little harder or get in a different training program,” said Fernandez. “I’m sure coach Innocent is thinking about how he’s going to change his program to be more suitable for the transition.”

In the past Fernandez had to see his physical trainer for knee problems. The knee muscles, being weaker than the other leg muscles, weren’t able to take the strain from running so his physical trainer had to give him exercises to strengthen that knee.

“It’s all about just being able to use your resources and actually committing yourself to a plan to combat the injuries,” said Fernandez. “You could do the work, it’s just a matter of caring about how you’re going to recover. Drinking the right supplements, rolling, icing. If you get an injury, slow down, go to a physical trainer. PCC has all those resources which is nice.”

Cross-country training and track and field training are very different: in cross-country the student-athletes have to run a lot of mileage while in track and field they focus on speed, acceleration, short distance, and take off. These comparisons highlight the need for runners to be body-conscious. 

The two sports also have different events that require student-athletes to exercise different parts of the body. Every athlete is susceptible to different injuries depending on their own physique and history of personal injury. A season overlap in two different running sports calls for dual student-athletes to be more mindful of their mental and physical wellness.

How do the coaches feel about the possible overlap?

“We are not really concerned about the overlap; we are making the necessary adjustments with the workouts so as to accommodate the overlap,” Egbunike said in an email.

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