After a more than two-month indoor track season, the University of Minnesota men’s team wrapped up its indoor season last week with a national champion athlete.
But all around the state, high school track teams trying to get back into the flow of their season find their indoor options limited.
Many teams compete in one indoor meet but then must wait until the outdoor meet schedule starts up.
“It’s mostly a three- to four-week time period that you’ll have here from when you start the track season up until [when] you have your first outdoor meet, so going to an indoor meet is a big, big benefit if you’re able to go,” Minneapolis Washburn coach Kenan Moore said.
The Millers will head to Mankato to compete in an indoor meet Saturday, the same day that the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse hosts the High School Indoor Early Bird.
Between the weather, winter sports ending and spring break conflicting with the start of track season, teams opting for an indoor meet can gain valuable experience.
Two years ago, spring snowstorms eliminated “a good chunk” of the St. Louis Park girls’ meets, coach Christine Tvrdik said.
“To be proactive, it’s a good thing to have [an indoor meet] on your schedule just in case you’re not able to be outside right away but our first meet isn’t until April 7 this year … so it’s nice to have something before kids go on spring break,” Tvrdik said.
St. Louis Park sophomore Sammi Baer started her season last year by placing second in the mile at the High School Indoor Early Bird with a time of 5 minutes, 42.6 seconds.
By the time the season ended months later, Baer had shaved nearly 17 seconds off her time.
Baer, who is entering her third season on the team, said she usually goes into the indoor meet with a strategy.
“I’ll normally set a time for myself and be like, ‘I really want to get here,’ and that means if I can do this, I will have a good season and I will keep breaking it down from there and I know I’m on the right track,” she said.
The mood at indoor meets tends to be more relaxed, as many teams’ athletes focus on improving and acclimating to a meet environment rather than competition.
“The main purpose of it is the exposure, giving coaches an opportunity to just see kids compete. Obviously we see them at practice every day and see them in workouts, but it’s good to see kids on the track, too, and in that competitive environment and see how they relate that way,” Tvrdik said.
The coach said her team tries to get as many competitors as possible to an indoor meet, but often multi-event athletes will just compete in one event.
At Minnetonka, coach Jane Reimer-Morgan estimated 30 of the 130 members of her team would compete in the Gopher Classic High School Meet, the second of two indoor high school competitions held at the university.
The event will be during the Skippers’ spring break, so many kids will be away.
Reimer-Morgan said underclassmen would also compete in one more indoor meet.
“The hope for the meet is just to try to kind of see what some of my new kids can do, but … it’s just going to be a good experience for those that are [there],” she said.
But despite the opportunity to compete in an indoor meet or two, the infrastructure isn’t in place for an entire indoor season.
“There are not a lot of indoor tracks around and the ones that are are so expensive that it costs too much to get in,” Moore said.
Betsy Helfand is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.