Track and Field Team Overview
Tariah Harrell, Staff Writer
The Wingate University men’s and women’s track and field teams have began their preseason practices for the 2016-2017 season. Head coach of the men’s and women’s track and field teams Travis Leflore and graduate assistant sprint coach Cole Henderson has given us a little insight on how they feel about this preseason and this upcoming indoor and outdoor season.
“The 2016 preseason is looking very encouraging for us,” Leflore said. “We have a lot of new faces to mix in with a strong group of returners. Athletes are looking strong and fit, which for us means a lot. We’re going to continue to build on the great start and try to keep everyone healthy. That mixture will lead to a successful year.”
“The 2016 preseason is looking promising for WUTF” grad assistant Cole Henderson said. “Some students have came back from summer training looking like brand new versions of themselves. The testing week showed growth in strength and speed from returners. Many of the athletes are experiencing some hard workouts, but understand that is the little improvements that add to future accomplishments. I believe the team could be called ‘Wingate Hills’ instead of Wingate Bulldogs right now because we will be running a lot of hills during this preseason.”
WUTF has been on a roll the past two seasons (indoor and outdoor), meanwhile fighting through struggles as days go on as they continue striving to become the best team in the country physically, mentally and emotionally.
“As head coach of this team, my job is to not only prepare our student-athletes for the season, but also our staff,” Lefore says. “As a staff, and a young staff, we’ve done a lot during the offseason to continue to progress this program. We’ve focused a lot on nutrition and hydration with our athletes this preseason, really driving home how important it is to take care of your body to improve. Obviously on the track, we have been working to get as fit as possible while staying injury free; and emotionally, we have been talking about faith, whether someone believes in that or not. That is something that has brought us closer together as a program.”
Cole Henderson, who is a former Wingate track and field superstar, is now in his 2nd year of grad school and being a coach. His mindset has changed tremendously from an ‘athlete’s’ mindset, to a coach’s point of view, but yet he can still relate.
“Mentally I am trying to prepare the athletes to consciously understand what their body is doing during performance. I do not want any athlete to simply just go through the motions of sprinting and hurdling. I try to challenge them to get out of their comfort zone when performing different repetitive workouts. Practice is the time to make mistakes and learn from them.”
“Physically, I am trying to prepare my athletes to be strong, therefore there are a lot of workouts that demand strength from the athlete. Threshold and capacity workouts will be implemented before speed, which becomes the cement over the foundation. Emotionally, I hope I am preparing my athletes to lean on God by example. Whenever an athlete is emotionally stricken, I like to remind the athletes that we serve a good God and to lean on him in times of need through prayer” Henderson replies.
In the South Atlantic Conference Championships this past March, men’s track and field placed 3rd, while the women placed 2nd, losing to Queens University by a few points. “I fully expect for both men and women to win the SAC conference championships this year,” Henderson said.
“I have been a part of the WUTF program for 6 years and this is the most competitive women’s team I have ever seen. The women’s team is filled with veterans that are ‘hungry’ for the championship. While on the men’s side has seen success in 2014 at the SAC championships, last year’s 3rd place finish was a big upset. The memory of last year’s defeat is fueling the men’s team this year, and it is evident by the hard work they have been showing, ”Henderson said.
Leflore, being the youngest track and field coach in NCAA Division II history and first AfricanAmerican head coach at Wingate, says that his expectations for the team is fairly simple. He expects the WUTF to be one of the top teams in the region and conference, and continue to have more athletes competing in the NCAA National Championships while also moving up in their national rankings.
“I want our young men and women to grow as individuals”. WUTF’s team morales has become very high since Isaiah Kyle’s return to campus after an intense health scare. Leflore and Henderson both say that the team morale has been high and has brought the team closer together.
“We have all been through a lot as a team, but we have all witnessed God’s grace and mercy with Isaiah coming back on campus, and we are so happy to have him back,” Leflore responds.” The love and support shown by the university and student body was graciously overwhelming,”
Cole Henderson says. “It was special to see the faith aspect of Wingate University be fulfilled during that hard time. People who didn’t know Isaiah personally were praying for him and prayer was the powerful tool that helped complete the process.”
As the team gets ready for their 1st indoor meet, the coaches are preparing not only their athletes but also themselves for the upcoming season. “As head coach, we deal with so much daily, I think the big thing for me is just to continue to improve across the board and be ready for everything,” Coach Travis responded.
“Motivation for the team can come in so many different ways, I am constantly thinking of ways to keep everyone motivated through the long season.” As for grad assistant Cole Henderson, he says he prepares by praying over the team and for himself that he can lead accordingly.
“I pray for my sanity at times because coaching is not easy. I try to learn from my elders, such as Coach Travis, Coach Whitney, and Coach Ashley, by asking them questions and following their lead. I am continuing to grow from things that I did last year as a coach and improving the program by any means necessary; and with that commitment, I hope to see success fall into place”.
The Wingate Bulldogs first meet is December 3rd at the JDL Kickoff Classic in Winston- Salem, North Carolina.
Edited by: Sara Gunter