Different runners collide in mile event

Megan Ryan

Many runners specialize in a specific event on the track. Whether they’re a sprinter, a middle-distance or a distance runner, they usually compete in only a few events at end-of-season meets.

Yet at any given track and field meet, it’s common to see 5,000- and 400-meter runners alike competing in a very different event — the mile run.

The Gophers women’s track and field team uses the mile for training purposes to help sprinters build endurance and distance runners improve their speed.

“The mile is an event where speed is important, but you also need to have that endurance to be able to keep up your pace for eight laps in indoors,” senior Kathryn Ritter said.

Ritter races in the 800-meter run, the mile run and distance medley relays. Junior Kaitlin Mincke is also a traditional mile and distance medley relay competitor.

“I feel like there’s a certain kind of energy when you’re running the mile,” Mincke said.

Ritter and Mincke said they both try to help teammates who are moving up or down in distance adjust to the mile.

At the Jack Johnson Minnesota Classic two weeks ago, Minnesota fielded 19 runners in the mile event. Junior Laura Docherty — who runs mainly 3,000 and 5,000 meters — led a sweep of the top four spots.

Mincke said that type of performance displayed the depth of the team in track events. She said it also helps that there’s an overlap in a single event.

“We definitely help each other with pacing,” Mincke said. “Going into something that you’re not as familiar with, it’s nice to … have that kind of reassurance from teammates.”

Volunteer assistant coach Sarah Hesser coaches distance runners and said training in the mile can foster better results in the longer distances.

“In the grand scheme of things, a lot of the longer races do come down to … the last mile,” Hesser said.

She said that this weekend at the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind., the distance team will have a lot of strong competition. She said the off-event training really reaps benefits at meets like these.

“It’s not like football or basketball where if you’re a quarterback, you’re going to play quarterback every weekend,” Hesser said. “In track, if you’re a mile-r, you’re not going to run the mile every weekend just because it’s not good for training.”

Ritter said she just enjoys the boost her teammates in the mile give her.

“We just feed off of each other,” Ritter said. “It pushes us.”