It's A Matter Of Physics -- Or Is It Geometry?
Tech's track teams tackle the turns at Clemson Saturday in its only indoor event of the fall
Dec. 2, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
(Note: this story comes with a chance for readers to participate; some will be smart enough to fill in the blank.)
It's really just a simple matter of geometry, or physics, or maybe kinesiology, or perhaps all of the above, or just maybe none . . . anyway, Alan Drosky pretty much understood why sprinters other than 60-meter specialists ran slower during the indoor season - which begins Saturday when Georgia Tech competes in the Orange and Purple Winter Classic at Clemson -- as opposed to outdoors.
It's elemental, as plain as the fact that on shorter indoor tracks, "A shorter sprinter with a more compact stride is going to be less affected by tighter corners," the Tech women's track and field coach thought.
He was right, of course, but this being Tech, Drosky was not surprised a while back when a more detailed explanation arose, even if he can't quite remember all of it.
"One of my students who was so smart explained to me one time that the turns are slower because you are constantly changing the vector, and if you're constantly changing the vector to keep the same speed you have to change the something [blank] . . . anyway. I said, `Ah, interesting.' "
Indoor track is quite interesting indeed, as angles change, some races shorten, field events change (weight throw instead of hammer throw) and Mother Nature is a non-issue.
Saturday's meet, where the women's and men's teams will compete, will be the Yellow Jackets' only action of the fall semester, and it will serve as a barometer more than anything else.
Clemson has a 200-meter flat indoor track, but unlike football or basketball where the fields of play are all the same dimensions, the same is not true in indoor track and field. This led to quite a surprise when when senior sprinter Jenae Anderson first ran on an indoor banked track, like the one at Virginia Tech, for example.
"If you don't control yourself coming down the first bank you can have a problem going up the next one," she said. "My first time running indoors, that's what happened to me."
Anderson has been running track since she was 7, coming from a track background as her father was a sprinter years ago for Tennessee Tech. But growing up in Knoxville, where her twin brother Anthony is a cornerback for the football team, she did not run indoors.
There's quite a variety of indoor facilities, although just three ACC schools - Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina - have them. Clemson and UNC have 200-meter, flat courses, Virginia Tech's track is banked (which is why ACC coaches vote to have the conference meet there). The Jackets also compete frequently at Kentucky, where the track is flat and 300 meters, meaning the turns aren't so tight.
Anderson, at 5-feet-4, fares relatively well in flat, tight corners, where fellow sprinter Kellie Christian (5-9) is at a disadvantage relative to how she might perform in normal corners outdoors, or on a banked indoor track.
Tech is going through transitions both common and uncommon relative to last school year.
New assistant coach Viktor Kirillov brings a wealth of international coaching experience to aid senior pole vaulters Joanna Wright and Erica Penk, who were second and seventh, respectively, in the ACCs last year. Kirillov also works with Tech's throwers.
The meet will also be the college debut for freshman Julienne McKee, who set a slew of state triple jump records at Lassiter High.
"This is our only competition before the holiday break so it's a good chance to see where everyone is, and it's a good opportunity to see some of our new people in action for the first time wearing our uniform," Drosky said. "Mostly, we're just looking to see how we're progressing."
OK, what's the blank? Surely, there are folks out there who know. Most of you went to Tech so fast up with it, folks. I'm curious. Things like this intrigue me, although I'll forget whatever you teach me in short order. Send answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.