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Teams gear up for spring break competition in Florida

Cody Takabuki ’20 on the mound in Florida last spring break. The baseball team plays a busy spring break schedule. Contributed photo.
Cody Takabuki ’20 on the mound in Florida last spring break. The baseball team plays a busy spring break schedule. Contributed photo.

This year, as has been the case since Athletic Director Andy Hamilton was a student at the College in the 1980s, the athletic department will be sending their spring sports teams to warmer weather for some game time and training. The men’s and women’s golf teams will be travelling to Arizona while the men’s and women’s track, men’s and women’s tennis, baseball and softball teams will be travelling to Florida.

“For some teams, the overall goal is really to get some games in, to brush up before we compete for the conference championship. And for other teams, it’s about getting the rust off and moving into the season, or in the case of track, keeping their training going,” Hamilton said. “From a student-athlete perspective, there’s a real freshness to this because in some ways they can really focus on their sport.”

The women’s track and field team, according to Head Coach Evelyn Freeman, is preparing for their outdoor season after a comparatively short indoor season.

“The trip helps us with the continuity of our training,” Freeman said. It also allows the team to train for events that are constrained in indoor practices, such as javelin, steeple chase, hammer throw, 400 hurtles and discus. It also serves as an opportunity to integrate new athletes transitioning from basketball or swimming into the team and test out athletes in events for which they have not previously competed.

The track and field teams will compete in a meet at Emory University at the end of their trip, as every team who takes such a trip must compete to comply with NCAA regulations.

“Most people go away for spring break, so we’re going away too,” Freeman said. “If we didn’t have the trip, then we would stay in Grinnell to train, and how many people are we going to hold in Grinnell for two weeks, when the weather’s not great and they’d rather be somewhere else?”

The trip fulfills a different purpose for the baseball team. Baseball Head Coach Tim Hollibaugh’s intent is to get as many games, 14 to be exact, during a period where there are not classes. Many of these games will be against other teams from the colder climates, including Illinois, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

“The whole goal of break is to get a better sense of our team in terms of how we play, who is going to play — experience, get as many experiences against quality opponents as we can, and really just prepare for our conference season. We play an extremely difficult schedule but the whole goal is to learn from these experiences and eventually get better game by game,” Hollibaugh said.

Like most of the other teams, the track and field teams will take a week for their trip, and the baseball team will be away the longest at 11 days.

Students are asked to pay a per diem amount that ranges from $50-75, an amount that is subsidized by funds from the athletic department’s budget. Hollibaugh suggested that if athletes express need, there are funds available to offset their personal costs to make the trip accessible to the entire team. For teams like track, Freeman encourages everyone to come, but out of a 61-athlete combined men’s and women’s team,  between 30 and 35 athletes will be attending this year.

“Although it’s a big operation to do this kind of thing, we’re trying to do it as cost-effectively as possible,” Hamilton said. The baseball and track and field teams will take buses to keep costs low for their large teams. Teams like tennis will only bring select players, such as those in their starting lineup. Some teams will rent out condos and cook instead of going out each night.

These communal living situations provide an opportunity for team bonding, which Freeman cites as particularly important, and a component to a team’s success that is often overlooked amid classes and practices. Since the teams will be on break, the coaches try to build in opportunities to go to the beach and relax in between practices or games.

“It’s an opportunity for our athletic programs to get really valuable athletic competition. Not every school in our league gets an opportunity to go,” Hamilton said.

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