MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Some athletes swear by the common phrase that competition is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental.
While hours upon hours in the weight room and at practice are necessary in order to compete at the highest level, the mental game is what separates the elite from the great.
Sophomore hurdler Chené Townsend
is advised by her sprints coach, Martin Pushkin, to just look straight ahead and not worry about what is going on beside her - or to ‘have the blinders on’ like a race horse.
“Coach Pushkin always says that hurdlers need to run like horses and have the blinders on so nothing else can distract us,” she says.
The concept is meant to not only rule out what the other competitors are doing, but also to not be too concerned of she’s going faster or slower than previous times. After all, the difference between 13.5 seconds and 13.9 seconds in a 100-meter hurdles race seems minimal, but has a grand effect on the placement of the individuals competing.
“Sometimes you feel like you went faster, but then you look at your time and realize it wasn’t what you thought it would be,” she explained. “It’s difficult to avoid thinking about it, but we are trained to just focus on our lane. It is hard to keep focused and think about something else at the same time. You just focus on the run and check your time after the race. You can’t worry about that when you’re racing.”
A redshirt sophomore, Townsend recently recorded a personal record of 8.41 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles at the BIG EAST Indoor Championships, building her confidence for the outdoor season. Last week at the Wake Forest Open, she had a 13.89 clocking in the 100-meter hurdles for third place overall finish. She earned a personal record of 13.71 seconds in the event during the 2011 season and looks to best the mark in 2012.
“Training and preparation is coming along great,” she said. “It’s a good start for me, and much better than my start to the 2011 outdoor season. It shows that I am improving and getting better. If I can transfer what I did during the indoor season to outdoor, it gives me confidence I can go further than I did last year.”
It also helps to have a six-time All-American in Chelsea Carrier-Eades
by your side to practice with and have the best competition available to prepare for meets.
“She’s helped a lot since my freshman year,” Townsend says. “I try to be with her every day in practice and give her the competition she needs in order to be successful herself. We help each other out so we can compete better for West Virginia. She goes into beast mode when we get to the meets, so I’m trying to learn that from her.”
A Kingston, Jamaica native, Townsend hopes to use the training she receives at West Virginia to one day compete for her country in the Olympics.
“Competing for my country is definitely near the top of my list of things I’d like to accomplish at some time,” she said. “Hopefully I can qualify for the 2016 Olympics, but it will be difficult because there are a lot of young, talented athletes my age and a few years younger. If it doesn’t work out to go to the Olympics, my plan is to become either a chiropractor or physical therapist with my exercise physiology degree.”
Townsend will get a good gauge on where she is at this weekend competing at the Texas Relays, one of the premier track and field events in the country.
“My goal for the Texas Relays is to get under a 13.70,” she said. “If I can get 13.50 - that would be awesome. My overall outdoor goal is to make it to nationals this year. It’s going to be hard and I’ll have to improve my time, but I’m working toward my ultimate goal of becoming an All-American at the end of the year.”
And while Townsend and Carrier-Eades will be racing in Texas beginning Wednesday, the remainder of the 24th-ranked Mountaineer team will be in Raleigh, N.C. for the Raleigh Relays beginning this Friday.