Senior sprinter Halie Carter leads a repeat during practice at the Rauch Fieldhouse during practice on Tuesday, January 27, 2015. The women's track team recently beat Lafayette 96-85. (Chris Barry/B&W photo)

Workload increases for student athletes during winter break


For the average Lehigh student, winter break represents a period designated for relaxation and recuperation. For an in-season student athlete, however, this time instead represents a period of hard work and practice.

Although student athletes are free from their textbooks and tests during break, their workload in their respective sports increases. While most students traveled home to spend time with family and friends for winter break, the student athletes came back to campus weeks early.

According to the NCAA regulations, while class is in session, student athletes may only participate in activities with an athletic purpose (games, practice and conditioning) with a coach present for a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week. However, during winter break, this rule is not in effect.

This change in workload has had a major effect on the women’s swimming and diving team. During the winter break, members of the team trained twice a day at Lehigh for three to three-and-a-half hours in the pool.

“It’s kind of a trade off (not having class),” said senior freestyle swimmer Madeleine Smith. “The winter training is the hardest part of our season. A lot of sports, like football, have preseason camp where they practice all day. That’s what we have, but it’s in the middle of our season.”

Before the women arrived at Lehigh, they traveled to Florida for a week where they trained all day, every day. Their days started off with a 6:45 a.m. breakfast, followed by cross-fit training in the parking lot and then a two-hour session in the pool, which wrapped up their mornings. Later in the day, they jumped in the pool for another two-hour session before they ended their day.

After they flew back to Lehigh, they lost to Patriot League rival Army 122-109 at Jacobs Pool. Despite the loss, sophomore Kaitlyn Ruffing swept the 50 and 100 yard freestyle events setting a Jacobs Pool record in the 100 free with a time of 51.99 seconds.

Later on, the Mountain Hawks routed Loyola University (Maryland) 186-108, winning 13 of 16 events. They concluded the break with a 163-131 loss to Bucknell University.

As for the men, they went 2-1 during the break with wins over Loyola (169-129) and New Jersey Institute of Technology (151-100), while falling to Army (141-98). Against Loyola, sophomores Jacob Moyar and Justin White dominated the water, both bringing home two wins. Moyar was successful again against NJIT, winning another two events while setting a personal record in the 1,000 yard freestyle.

The swimming and diving team was not alone in its winter break training schedule, as members of Lehigh’s track and field team also participated in intense training.

The track and field team hit the practice field twice a day for about two hours each day, with a team activity on some nights. They attended a couple of basketball games and participated in a “Thank You Letter” campaign for all of the alumni that donated last year.

During the break, the team had one very important focus:

“Healthy,” said Matt Utesch, the coach of the men’s and women’s track and field teams.  “We wanted to get out of winter break healthy.”

Utesch discussed the importance of winter break training saying, “There is such a heavy volume of work (during finals),” Utesch said. “We wanted to knock the rust off and get back in track shape after being home for a month. We’re sort of trying to drain them a little bit. It’s a very taxing week.”

Despite the difficult week, winter break offered a time for athletes to focus strictly on their sport. Sophomore mid-distance runner Robert Smith said having practice without the pressure of having class made the break more relaxing.

“Your one job is to run during the two weeks we are here,” Smith said. “You act like a professional athlete with no other priority.”

Smith and the rest of the track and field team looked like professionals in their first meet coming back from break as they demolished Lehigh’s rival, Lafayette College, 120-61 at Rauch Fieldhouse. Sophomore Christopher Del Rossi shined for Lehigh, winning the 200-meter and the 500-meter races.

As for the women, the meet was a little closer, but they still pulled out the victory against Lafayette 96-85. Freshman Amanda Youngblood picked up a win for the Mountain Hawks with a 13.44-meter weight throw.

While the payoff from training was evident in the two victories over Lafayette, the track and field teams still have bigger goals in mind.

“The work that we do now pays off in championship season,” Utesch said.

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