Aaron Hostetler Sports Editor
One of the most notable experiences during my time as a student at Eastern was being a student athlete on the Track and Cross-Country teams. I first began running track during my sophomore year at Foran High School in Milford. I was not very fast at the time, since running was a new experience for me. I had to continuously take my inhaler before practice because of my asthma, and had lots of trouble breathing and keeping up with everybody during workouts.
2014 and 2015 consisted of a lot of mileage for me, as I tried to get used to running longer distances for my cross-country team. I was still slow, but I learned to enjoy the feeling of 6 to 8 mile runs along the beach every day as a form of exercise that was intense but also psychologically relaxing. After continuous instruction from my coaches to run 8 miles a day over the summer, I trained enough to be one of the top seven varsity athletes on the team for a short while. My transition into a distance runner continued into the following track seasons, and it became one of my best experiences of high school.
When I went to college, I wanted to continue running as it had become part of my weekly routine. I was compelled to join Eastern’s track team and began to run longer distances than usual. After not making the qualifying mile time for the team the first time, I finally was able to join during the outdoor track season of 2018. I realized that track in college was much different than in high school, as the workouts were much more intense, but very efficient. It was strenuous on our muscles as the repeat sprints and 800’s pushed us all to our limits. However, all of this was for the better, as it helped us get stronger and faster to compete with other schools during the meets. The constant and mandatory lifts were also helpful, as we were all scheduled to go to the weight room two to three times per week.
I continued to run at Eastern by participating in cross country in the fall seasons of 2018 and 2019. The running got much more intense as the mileage increased to 40 – 50 miles per week with much more speed workouts than I was used to. I’ll never forget the intense workouts of running fast mile repeats in the woods with a 2-3 minute rest each time. The days with the longer runs that went from five to over ten miles were rough but sometimes very enjoyable, as we got to run by other parts of Willimantic. We saw beautiful scenery such as the rail trail, and bicentennial park; all places that I would have never been to otherwise. The thing I struggled with was the 8k races. As a person who is used to 3 mile 5k races, a 5 mile 8k still takes some adjusting to. However just like any sport, it takes persistence and effort to overcome any failures and eventually succeed.
As a student athlete, one thing that I really had to learn was to manage my time. Joining the team made it more difficult to get things done, but it was a good learning experience because it kept me organized, and gave me a schedule for me to do schoolwork around. I also learned how much goes into being a committed athlete, like having to take care of your diet, sleep schedule, and taking good care of your body when you are sore from practice. Good preparation before a meet was also essential, and consisted of running easy the day before a meet, and packing my bag ahead of time for the long early drives to meets. I was able to learn how all of these factors were important in order to stay healthy and stay efficient at my sport.
The social aspect was something I always liked about participating in a sport, as you get to interact with other people who are training to get better just as you are. All of the coaches and teammates were very caring, and all were dedicated to pushing each other to our very best potential. Everybody is committed to the sport and further represents the friendly and welcoming environment that Eastern has to offer. Although I did not participate in track for every season of my athletic career at Eastern, my experiences on the team have made me appreciate and respect everybody around me, for really trying and putting forth the effort to make our team the best it can be.
Now that my graduating class’s time at Eastern is ending, I have also come to realize that my time as a student athlete has officially come to a close. It may not have had the most conclusive end, given that the outdoor track season of 2020 did not occur due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and I am truly sorry for any other athletes scheduled to graduate this year, who have missed out on the chance to have one final and satisfying season. However, I would advise for everybody to keep practicing whatever sport or activity makes them happy, no matter what circumstances may arise. Picking up a sport, or any other extracurricular activity while at college is something I would strongly recommend to any undergraduate student, and will certainly enhance your time spent at college. Now that I am graduating, I plan to continue running on my own to train for marathons, and my time as a student athlete is something I will always remember from my time at Eastern.