Track and Field Scholarship

Passing Through Your “Valley of Disappointment” and Getting Back on Track!

All great athletes have gone through periods of time when they feel the effort and sacrifice being made are not worth the outcomes they are experiencing. The gap between what one thinks should happen and what is actually happening is often responsible for discouragement, non-persistence, and negative feelings. It is easy to be positive, train hard and dedicate yourself to the task at hand if the fantasy you play over and over in your mind coincides with your reality. However, when you find yourself in your own personal “Valley of Disappointment “ it is imperative that you stay the course.

Over my thirty-year college coaching career, I observed many unimagineable breakthroughs occur when the “Valley of Disappointment” was traveled through. Conversely, I wonder how many such breakthroughs awaited one’s arrival on the other side only to be disappointed to learn the individual’s journey had been discontinued.

A few suggestions on how to survive your journey follow.

Enjoy the Process

“The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.” ― Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

James Clear states, “We often expect progress to be linear…people feel discouraged after putting in weeks and months of hard work without experiencing any results”. Track and Field is a numbers driven sport. Its’ participants live and die by inches and hundredths of a second. Oftentimes, arbitrary numbers are dreamt up and a goal is set. When that arbitrary number isn’t actualized the journey is considered a disappointment. I would suggest (as do many, many others) to focus on the process and to enjoy the moment at hand. For instance, you are training and competing alongside your best friends. The moments shared in a pre-race huddle will accompany you for the rest of your life. As a coach, I would often encourage my athletes to stop and take it all in, to fully grasp how cool what you are experiencing really is.

Don’t Over Analyze

“When the mind is allowed to relax, inspiration often follows.” ― Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

There is an old Indian Proverb that states, “If you live in the river you should make friends with the crocodile”. It is imperative to realize that the sport of track and field and cross country will be filled with ups and downs, each quickly passing and reappearing. One of the most challenging aspects of my personal coaching career was managing the emotions of such. A PR and Ivy League upset win by one of my hardest working athletes would be soon followed by a false start by my best athlete moments later. As an athlete – don’t over analyze the journey through your "Valley of Disappointment". Just keep putting in the work, remaining positive and allowing yourself the opportunity to succeeed.

Focus on Small Incremental Wins

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” - ZEN PROVERB

As the season progresses without your goals becoming actualized, it becomes increasingly more common to become even more outcome-focused. Athletes become fixated on splits, PR’s or qualifying marks. Instead, focus on small, daily winnable goals – improve 1% each day. The difference small daily improvements can make over time is astounishing. Focus on relaxation techniques before the race or a small aspect of your race that you can fully control.

As Stoic philosophers so often stated, “We should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?” Meet conditions, field sizes, trips and falls, wet rings and headwinds will always exist. Focus on what you can control and eagerly await for your moment. Your work, commitment and positive attitude will not be wasted. Your breakthrough has already happened somewhere in your future and it awaits your arrival. Do not disappoint it by not showing up!

Fast Track Recruiting

Arkansas Track and Field Recruiting - Class of 2022 - Men


College Track and Field Recruiting

Are you wondering what it takes to run compete in the SEC? See how stack up with the University of Arkansas incoming track and field recruiting class - 

Vernon Turner, High Jump | Yukon, Okla./ Yukon High School / University of Oklahoma
Event: High Jump
Personal Best: High Jump – 7’7.75”

Tre’Bien GilbertHurdles | Converse, Texas / Judson High School
Events: 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles
Personal Bests: 110-meter hurdles – 13.53, 300-meter hurdles – 36.18

Rashad Boyd, Sprints | Houston, Texas / Alief Hastings High School
Events: 100-meters, 200-meters
Personal Bests: 100m – 10.61 (10.55w), 200m – 20.93
Accolades: TSU Relays 200-meter champion, 200-meter state qualifier, Texas Relays 100-meter finalist
Boyd on Arkansas: “What gets better than the Arkansas track team?”

Boyd was the twelfth-fastest high school 200-meter runner in the United States during 2018. He placed sixth in the 200-meter final at Texas 6A State Championship and was the Texas 6A Region III runner-up in 200m. His brother, Rakeem Boyd, is an Arkansas football signee.

Travean Caldwell, Sprints and Hurdles | Crossett, Ark. | Crossett High School / Arkansas Baptist College
Events: 400-meters, 400-meter hurdles
Personal Bests: 200-meters – 21.69, 400-meters – 47.30, 400-meter hurdles – 52.77

Kevin Wilkinson, Middle Distance | Moorpark, Calif. | Bishop Alemany High School / Arizona State University
Events: 800-meters, 1500-meters
Personal Bests: 800-meters – 1:50.91, 1,500-meters – 4:00.81

Trey Grayson, Middle Distance | Glenpool, Okla.| Glenpool High School / Oklahoma State University
Events: 400-meters, 800-meters
Personal Bests: 800-meters – 1:51.49, 1,600-meters – 4:16.10, 3,200-meters – 9:43.63

Carl Elliott, Sprints and Hurdles| Fort Pierce, Fla. | Fort Pierce Central High School / Edward Waters College
Events: 200-meters, 110-meter hurdles, triple jump
Personal Bests: 200-meters – 21.66, 110-meter hurdles – 14.24, TJ – 45’1.25”, LJ – 21’7”

Kyle Costner, Multi-Events | Brentwood, Tenn. | Brentwood High School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 11.41, 400-meters – 50.2, 110-meter hurdles – 14.81, LJ – 22’1”, TJ – 42’5”, HJ – 6’2”, PV – 13’, SP – 40’, DT – 114’, Decathlon – 6,309-points

Brittan Burns, Multi-Events | Prior Lake, Minn. | Lakeville South High School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 11.85, 400-meters – 52.99, 1,500-meters – 4:52, 110-meter hurdles – 15.24, LJ – 21’8.75”, HJ – 6’4”, PV – 12’6”, SP – 38’1”, DT – 109’4”, JV – 117’8”, Decathlon – 5,873-points

Daniel Spejcher, Multi-Events | Bloomington, Ill. | Lake Park High School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 11.2, 200-meters – 22.3, 400-meters – 53.2, 110-meters hurdles – 14.99, LJ – 22’11.75”, HJ – 6’3”, PV – 10’6”, SP – 45’4”, DT – 127’6”, JV – 125’8”, Decathlon – 5,715-points

Connor Holzkamper, Multi-Events | Keller, Texas | Liberty Christian School
Event: Decathlon
Personal Bests: 100-meters – 10.90, 200-meters – 22.48, 400-meters – 55.18, HJ – 5-6

Jon Conley, Sprints/Jumps | Fayetteville, Ark. | Fayetteville High School
Events: 100-meters, Long Jump


When To Start Nudging Our Young Track and Field Athletes Toward Greatness



Parents of track and field athletes

In a recent conversation with a parent of an elite 7th Grade runner from Massachusetts, I was asked when would be the best time for her to start getting serious about her training. I realized that despite my thirty years of NCAA I Head Coaching experience, I had never given this subject matter a great deal of thought. In my role as a college coach, I was accustomed to dealing with older runners and had never really given much thought to the beginning of the process.

We often read about college coaches signing multi-million dollar contracts, and yet the men and women in the trenches of creation – the coaches out there helping plant the seeds of determination and skill development are typically volunteering parents. As a result, it is easy to assume that the system works and that the most talented athletes will eventually rise to the top. However, it is quite possible that this “wait-for-the-fire-to-ignite-within” approach to skill development and commitment levels in the sport of track and field is selling our future elite athletes short.

Imagine a young musician, artist or scientist delaying the development of their skill-set simply to avoid burnout. As coaches and parents, we oftentimes sit back, waiting for the young athlete to find their passion – as if it is sleeping within simply waiting to be awoken. A new joint study by researchers from Yale- Singapore and Stanford University states that “the ‘find your passion’ mantra may be a hindrance, distracting the individual from the actualization of their potential.”

In that study, researchers asked the question, “Are interests there all along, waiting to be revealed or must a spark of interest be cultivated through investment and persistence?” From the results of this study, it appears that developing and nurturing passion can be highly effective, particularly when compared to taking a wait and see approach. With more deliberate action, it becomes the responsibility of the participant and their network of support to help grow that “passion” through a systematic plan of logical progression and pedagogy. 

So, how does this apply to your elite junior high track and field athlete? Maybe, it is time to rethink the traditional model in our sport of waiting for that inner fire to ignite or for the tangible line in the sand to be crossed at a particular age. Perhaps, with a sound training plan and the right encouragement – we can develop these middle school athletes into highly successful high school, collegiate and post-collegiate runners by getting them started earlier.

We must ask ourselves how do we start developing this passion in a healthy manner. A former runner of mine at Columbia University and highly touted author, David Epstein (See – The Sport’s Gene) suggests that positive feedback is linked to higher performance. He cited research by sports psychologist

Christian Cook in which subjects performed better and were less likely to repeat mistakes when they were given positive feedback at an early age of participation. “I don’t know if it’s counterintuitive that positive feedback works, but it’s not the intuitive way for [coaches] to act,” Epstein says, explaining that coaches naturally identify what’s wrong and instruct athletes how to improve. “If you had to choose between needing feedback when we did something wrong or when we did something right, I’m convinced now it’s when we did something right. And that’s when people don’t give feedback,” he says. “They pay attention to what’s wrong.” So, during this time – clap before correcting. There will be plenty of time to correct in the future.

Epstein’s thoughts were reiterated in a recent article by Jenny Anderson entitled, “ Parents: Let Your Kids Fail. You’ll Be Doing Them a Favor”. She lists three ways in which we can help younger athletes develop their passion and succeed:

            1. Praise efforts, not outcomes (clap before correcting)

            2. Cheer like a grandparent, not a parent. (clap before correcting)

            3. Realize the coach is your partner, not your adversary.

For a tangible example of how effective helping younger athletes develop their passion can be -  look no further than this year’s World Cup. According to Troy Engle (former USMA Head Track and Field Coach and current Director of Coach Development for Sport Singapore), Belgium and France have  “Two of the greatest sporting systems and coaching development programs in any sport in the world. Hardly a coincidence that they are among the four remaining team…there is a lot for all of us to gain from their best practices”

To answer the initial question of when is the logical time to get started with a more formalized plan for younger runners hoping to become elite runners. I would suggest somewhere between ages 11-13.

How To Train Like A State Champion – An Inside Look at Dustin Horter’s Championship Season Training Schedule

Dustin Horter

How To Train For the Mile

Want to run fast at the end of the season?  Below you will find the final 13 days of Dustin Horter’s incredible high school running career. Four things to take away from Dustin’s running log:

1.     Stay with what got you there – remain consistent.

2.     Do not taper too much

3.     Don’t press - stay controlled and comfortable during quality work.

4.     Communicate with your coach about everything.

His Final Two Weeks:

Sunday – 9 miles @ 6:20 pace. Slower than usual but getting ready for States.

Monday – 6 miles @ 6:23 pace + 4 x 150m in 20-21. Smooth and relaxed run with coach.

Tuesday – 1.5 mile w/u jog – 8 x 400m in 65 w/ 60-90 seconds rest – 2.5 mile cool down. I felt really good and strong. I did not feel like I was pushing myself at all

 Wednesday – 6 miles @ 6:24 pace + 4 x 150m in 20-21. Slowly drawing back on intensity, but keeping mileage consistent. I felt very relaxed.

Thursday – 1.5 mile warm up +8 x 200m in 29 – 1.5 mile cool-down. I spiked up for this one. This workout was the easiest I have felt all week.

Friday4 miles at 6:49 pace at 7:00 am to get as much rest as possible before tomorrow + 4 x 150m in 20-21.

Saturday – Ohio State Meet – 4:06.96 (1st), 9:05.88 (3rd)

Sunday – 6 miles @ 6:21 pace. Staying consistent with what we have been doing to get ready for the national meet. Kept things pretty chill – no long run this week as my coach and I decided not to consider mileage this week at all. We decided to supplement harder workouts for missed mileage.

 Monday – 1.5 mile easy + 400m in 58, 2 x 300m in 44, 600m in 1:28 – 800m recovery jog – 4 x 200m in 26-27 – 1.5 mile cool down. Overall this was a great day for me and a confidence booster going into the weekend. I felt comfortable and controlled!

Tuesday – 6 miles @ 6:11 pace + 4 x 150m in 20-21. Pretty easy day. 

Wednesday – 1.5 mile warm-up -8 x 200m in 29 – 1.5 mile cool-down. This is basically my go to tune-up before big races (see above). Felt great, other than it being so hot out.  

Thursday – 4 miles @ 6:40 pace . Nice jog with some friends out in Seattle – a lot of talking and laughing. Followed run with 4 x 150m.

Friday – Brooks PR Invitational – 4:04.68 (1st)