When a Team Sport Gets Personal
Two track and field athletes named All-Americans| From Commonwealth | By Rebecca McNamara (CAS’08, COM’08)
Long jumper Tahari James (SAR’09) broke BU and personal records last season. Photo courtesy of BU Athletics
It turns out that there is an “I” in team, at least for one BU sport. The women’s track and field team’s thirty-four members train, travel, eat, and socialize together; at meets, each athlete adds points to an overall team score. But when they run, jump, or throw, it’s an individual effort — and handling that pressure was key to their 2007–2008 success.
“The athletes realize that they’re competing against each other, against their competitors, and also themselves,” says Robyne Johnson, the track and field director. When one teammate beats another, it pushes the latter to work harder — creating a cycle of high-level training. “These athletes are very focused and competitive,” Johnson says.
Women’s track and field compiled an impressive record this year: the team won its third consecutive indoor America East Championship, and after being picked as preseason favorites by conference coaches for the outdoor season, fulfilled expectations by winning the America East outdoor championship in May. Long jumper Tahari James (SAR’09) was the meet’s high scorer.
Track and field athletes qualify individually to reach national competition, and this year, two BU athletes made it — and surpassed much of the competition when they got there. Marisa Ryan (CAS’07, MED’10), a distance runner, and James were named All-Americans at the NCAA Indoor Track Championship in March in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where they each broke BU and personal records. Ryan placed fifth in the 3,000 meters, with a time of 9:12.83, and James came in sixth in the triple jump, with a 13.42-meter jump.
Ryan says she loves track’s unique dynamic, the relationship between individual success and team success. “You go out there and you run as fast as you can,” she says. “We’re all working toward the same goal, even though we do totally different things.” James agrees. “With track, as long as you’re busting your behind, you’ll excel in your individual event,” she says. “Whether that contributes to the team points overall will vary, but at least you know that for your event, you tried your hardest.”
For both athletes, scholastic track will come to an end soon, but neither is ready to give it up altogether.
Ryan hopes to keep training, even as her med school obligations are increasing.
James will compete in one more outdoor season, in 2009. But in May, her concentration focused on training for the June Olympic trials. She’s achieved a provisional mark, so she will compete in the trials only if too few athletes do not meet the high qualifying mark.
“I would love to drag this out as long as I can,” she says, “as long as my body is able to get through all of the training.”