Members of the track and field club run laps around the Santa Cruz High School track, monitoring their laps to keep consistent pace times.Photo by Morgan Grana

For many athletes, getting in the school’s record books is the achievement of a lifetime. But for the UC Santa Cruz track and field club, breaking and gaining records is commonplace. They have set 24 records this school year, 14 of them since Jan. 1.

“We count everything,” said head coach Geoff Foley. “If you throw a toaster, that’s a record. And it’s a different record for a four-slice toaster than a two-slice toaster. We just count everything.”

Not everyone takes a lighthearted approach to their athletic prowess. The record-breaking comes with hard work on the field. Practices include long runs and weightlifting before any javelins are thrown or any triple jumps are jumped. Captain Jean Michael Sabile said the record-breaking is part of creating team spirit.

“Breaking records means we’re making progress,” Sabile said. “It’s good motivation for people.”

For athletes like Sabile, the track club offers a flexibility few other sports clubs offer. Sabile said that despite being a relay runner and sprinter, he is learning to throw the javelin on the side. For Sabile, who is a fourth-year neuroscience major, this adds reason to continue working on his track performance, when he could be studying or in the lab.

“It’s not like every track team, as there’s distinction in what you do,” Sabile said, “but not in what you want to do. If you’re a thrower and you want to learn running, we’re totally cool with that. We don’t want to put limits on you.”

For Cabrillo second-year Chelsea Hedenland, the track and field club offers an escape from her busy work life. Currently, Hedenland splits time between full-time babysitting, working at June Bug’s Gym, school and breaking UCSC track records. As one of a select number of Cabrillo students in the track and field club and the only female shot put thrower, Hedenland knows what it’s like to stand out.

“I wish I had another girl to throw against,” Hedenland said. “It’d be fun to tag along with one to events.”

Hedenland, who has broken 12 shot put records this year alone, admits that she can be intimidating to throw against. Earlier in the season, Hedenland threw against two other prospective female throwers from UCSC during a tryout. Hedenland’s performance, though by her own admission not her best, was enough to scare off the potential rivals.

For now, Hedenland’s competition is her brother Drew, who also throws shot put. The siblings hail from a family of throwers, and now battle to see who can break more school records than the other. To date, Drew owns three records, while Chelsea owns 13 records.

For a young club, setting and breaking records helps establish itself on campus. Sabile said breaking records is a result of the team growing from nine people in 2006 to over 100 people, with at least 30 regulars in recent years. The team has gone from having only six meets in 2006, to over 40 meets scheduled for the 2011-12 school year. The team is breaking records at an even faster pace than last year, with 24 records set so far. The team set 52 school records last year.

“While we have definitely gotten better,” Sabile said, “we have room to improve, if you can believe that.”