Early every morning, while much of the student body is sound asleep, the 12 members of the women’s track team make their way down to the tennis court bleachers, with breath steaming out of their mouths into the cool morning air. They have a brief team meeting with head coach Aaron Jacobsen before heading out on their morning run.
It’s understandable the team only has 12 runners — it’s just the team’s second year of existence. However, senior Mimi Peterson would like to see the team expand in the future.
“I’d really love for us to grow our numbers and keep everyone healthy,” Peterson said. “But I’d also love to get more people to know we have a track team. We just need more girls running with us.”
One benefit of belonging to a small team is the closeness of the group. The runners remain familiar with one another throughout the year because they are expected to stay in shape and keep their bonds tight by running for the cross country team during fall quarter.
“I’ve been really close with my teammate Mimi — we do all of our workouts together,” sophomore Jamie West said. “Last weekend when I PR’d [personal record], she actually paced me for the first two laps to get me going.”
Currently, the team is only represented in five events at meets: races of 800 meters, 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the 3,000 meter steeplechase — a race in which runners must clear hurdles and water jumps.
To participate in all available events, more athletes must join to expand the team. Jacobsen, who began coaching at the start of the 2010 season, thinks the upcoming recruiting class may jump start that process.
“The women’s team has what looks to be a good recruiting class, probably the best we’ve had in a couple of years,” Jacobsen said. “People are noticing that we are doing better things. That helps with recruiting to get better kids and it feeds off of itself from year to year.”
Each year, the top 20 athletes from each event are invited to the NCAA Division III Championships. On a day-to-day basis, Jacobsen develops his current athletes to achieve that goal and recruits athletes who, given the opportunity, might help put UCSC track and field on the map.
“The goal is to get [runners] as close as they can and have them continue to recruit more talented athletes. It’s also to have them improve and progress to the point where we start sending [them] to the national championships,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen made sure to note that because a runner is not required to sign a National Letter of Intent, an athlete who verbally commits can back out at any point. While this may cause a level of uncertainty for the team, Jacobson is confident the 2014 recruits will be a successful bunch.
This season the Slugs competed in five meets: the CSU Stanislaus Open, the Johnny Mathis Invitational, the San Francisco State Distance Carnival, the CSU East Bay Invitational and the Brutus Hamilton Invite at UC Berkeley.
Slug runners still have a chance to qualify for the national championships at their last meet, the West Coast Challenge at San Francisco State on May 10. To accomplish this, a runner must do what has not been done all season — record a time placing in the top 22 in the entire nation.
“Whether or not it’s a realistic goal at the moment is the reason to be out here,” Jacobsen said. “We have to try to win.”