At FAU, women’s track is trailing the field of other sports when it comes to attention, according to the players and its coach.
Its resources are limited. Despite having a track on-campus which it practices on, the team has no home track meets, which contributes to a minimal fan base and following, according to sophmore sprints/hurdler Danielle Aromashodu. The team also has to travel on the road as nomads from meet to meet.
Head coach Alex Smolka says it is not the track itself that is the problem, rather the lack of sufficient facilities.
“It’s not the track,” Smolka said. “It’s the fact there’s no stands, no bathrooms, no scoreboard. The track is actually a very well built track in terms of the surface and circumference.”
Smolka estimates the cost of a concrete, top of the line facility, with bathrooms and a concession stand to cost roughly hundreds of thousands of dollars. He says the school would like to improve the conditions, but simply cannot afford it at this time.
“There’s been a lot of discussions but the biggest issue is money,” Smolka said. “Actually, the only issue is money. It’s just finding a donor, finding money to put everything together.”
Once a quality facility is built, Smolka hopes, women’s track will flourish at FAU.
“Having a home track meet will certainly help a great deal,” Smolka said of what it will take to get more people interested in the sport. “Being on campus will definitely add a great deal to having people come out and watch us without having to go down to Miami [or other venues that it competes at]. So it would help a lot as far as recognition goes.”
In the meantime, the athletes understand the reality of the situation, but still want to be noticed for their efforts.
“I don’t like it, of course, but this school isn’t really a track school,” senior track athlete Ashani Roberts said. “They don’t pay that much attention to track. But I feel like we should get more attention like every other sport.”
“People aren’t even aware of the type of talent we have,” Aromashodu said.
In addition to Roberts, she lists sophmore sprinter Dana Cannon, and freshman Tatiana David (who got third place in the triple jump last week, her first collegiate event) as athletes that will be key contributors.
Nevertheless, head coach Alex Smolka is excited for the way his squad opened the season in Gainesville at the Jimmy Carnes Invitational.
“We had a couple breakthrough performances,” he said. “We had one new school record established in the triple jump with Ashani. We have a number of freshman and new people to run track, so we had very nice performances.”
Roberts now has the school record for the triple jump, both indoors and outdoors. Last year, she finished second in the triple jump, and also qualified for the NCAA Regionals.
“I felt good, I know that I could have done a lot better, but we don’t really practice indoors that much,” Roberts said. “We don’t have an indoor facility, [but] I felt like I did fairly well for my first track meet.”
Distance runners have to run 60 miles a week to be competitive at a divisional level, according to Smolka. He says sprinters do lifting three days a week and practice five days a week.
“It’s a very, very intense commitment for a race that takes just under 12 seconds,” Smolka said of sprinters.
Knowing this, Aromashodu trained vigorously during the off-season to gain an edge. To prepare for the 400-meter hurdles, she worked out her key muscles to the point of exhaustion.
“With track you’re going to feel uncomfortable and some days you’re going to feel fatigued, like you just don’t want to do it anymore,” Aromashodu said. “But that’s the process of strengthening your body. The pain comes along with it, but it’s fine.”
The Owls, with a 30-athlete roster, (half of which are of walk-ons), are considered to be short-handed. Smolka says that for the conference championship, FAU brings around 22 athletes, while a school like Western Kentucky will bring closer to 40.
“We have a very small team compared to some of the powerhouses in the conference,” Smolka said. “But our goal is to make up what we don’t have in quantity with quality by being able to push everybody we have to really contribute.”
Unlike other sports, in track, there is no opponent to focus attention towards. This makes it an individualistic task for the player to prepare for.
“You’re running against the clock and not anybody else,” Aromashodu said. “The race is really only about you. You’re competing against yourself and the clock.”
Her goal is to defend her title for the outdoor 400 hurdles. Her goal for her team is even bigger.
“We want to show other schools and teams that FAU can be put on the map too,” Aromashodu said.
The women’s track team will compete in the Gator Invitational on Jan. 22 in Gainesville, Fla. and in the BU Valentine Invatiantional on Feb. 10 in Boston, Mass.