Karrington Winters, a freshman from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and New Albany High School, will provide an inside look at the 2016 track and season throughout the winter and spring on OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Winters was a three-time OHSAA Division I state champion in the 400-meter dash in high school and a two-time OATCCC Division I state indoor champion in the 400. Coached by former Buckeye Otis Winston at New Albany, she owned the top 400-meter time in the state all four years of high school.
The daughter of Rozell and Janine Winters, she is majoring in strategic communications at Ohio State.
Entry 7: Jesse Owens Classic and Home Outdoor Debut
Leading up to the Jesse Owens meet, the practices were very purposeful and I got a lot out of them. It was a big week on the track and in the classroom as I went through my last week of classes and trained for the meet. I couldn’t help but think about how a year ago, I won a state title on the JO track to end my high school career and a year later, I’d be competing in my first collegiate meet on that track.
The week flew by with the combination of track and school. Before I knew it I was pulling up to the track on race day. I was anxious to run the 800 meters. I haven’t run it much, but I’ve always had a deep-routed liking of it. As I warmed up, I visualized myself running through the different stages of the race.
As the gun went off, I took off around the corner, and when I hit the break line, I gradually cut in to settle into the pack. Things were going well – I felt comfortable and at ease through 400 meters. I felt the pace shift, so I responded and switched gears as well. When I hit 550 meters, I felt my legs slowly fading. I didn’t do as well as expected, but I learned a lot from the 800 and it has helped with my stamina in the 400 meters, so I appreciate having the opportunity to run it.
There was no time to dwell on the 800-meter race, as I had to get my body rested, fueled and ready for the 4×4. I was the only athlete on the 4×4 team who did not run the 200, so I knew since I was running lead off leg I’d have to give the baton off in first with a good split. As the gun went off, I had my eyes set on the girls in the outside lanes as I tried to break the stagger immediately. I felt stronger than I’ve ever felt through 200 and felt myself shift gears as I hit the 150m mark. As I came down the home stretch to hand off to SoSo [Walker], I heard Coach Karen [Dennis] yell “move” and SoSo began to take off.
There is nothing like the relief of handing off the baton or crossing the finish line. As I watched SoSo begin her leg, I felt a sense of relief as I exited the track. Our 4×4 won, but I’m excited for us to get back to work, athletically and academically. The Jesse Owens meet was a great experience and I enjoyed it tremendously – there were a lot of amazing races, jumps and throws.
This meet reminded me of the pride I have for being a Buckeye and being part of a program that is bigger than yourself. To wear “Ohio State” across your chest is something so special and something to be proud of. I’m excited as my teammates and I prepare for Drake Relays and I cannot wait to see what that meet has in store.
Entry 6: Hello, California!
As we boarded the plane heading from Missouri to California after a layover, I couldn’t figure out if I was more excited to be in warm weather or to just be in California itself. One thing was for sure, I knew it’d be a great trip because along with getting to run in warm weather, I’d be able to experience a new city.
Stepping off the plane, I did what most teenagers would do: open Snapchat and see what new filters were available because of the new location. I was so anxious to get outside and feel how warm it was and see new things, but business was first. We grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the hotel in order to get ready for our shakeout.
My teammates and I walked around the track as we began to notice the oddly long straight-away on both sides. Coming from indoor to outdoor, the track already looks and feels huge. The long back stretch and home stretch at USC seemed to make the track even larger. I didn’t mind though because I like the straights more than the turns. Walking around as the sun shined down on us, I could tell it would be a good meet and a nice track for my 400-meter debut.
Following our shakeout, we got to walk back to the hotel and cut through campus. With palm trees all around and the warm California air, I facetimed my parents to let them know we made it safely and that I was having a great time. When we got back to the hotel, everyone went to their rooms to get ready for dinner or whatever their evening plans were.
That night, I went to see the new Batman vs. Superman movie. The first fifteen minutes were great, but that’s really all I can tell you because in my true fashion, I fell asleep. It was great to see downtown Los Angeles, including the notorious Staples Center. After the movie, we all went back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.
On Friday, we got up early in order to shakeout and practice hand offs. This being the second time out on the track, I felt a little more comfortable. After shaking out, we walked back to the hotel to get ready for lunch and to see the throwers compete. I always enjoy watching the throwers because it is something I normally don’t get to see at meets. Besides being scared multiple times by the hammer flinging into the side fences, the whole experience was great. After returning from the throwing competition, some of the sprint group went to the Beverly Hills Area to eat and see some of the city.
We ended up splitting into two groups, so I went off with SoSo Walker, Aliyah Everson and Alexis Franklin. We saw Sunset Blvd, Melrose and Hollywood Blvd before heading back to the hotel. The highlight of my second day in Cali was spotting, meeting, and taking a picture with Marcus Houston (Roger from Sister, Sister). We also got to see the stars on Hollywood Blvd. which has been on my bucket list for a long time, so I am happy we had time to see them.
The third day was race day, or “business” day. The fun time was paused as my teammates and I prepared for our races. Like my normal routine, I woke up around 8:30 to eat breakfast and do some reading. I normally turn my phone on “do not disturb” so I can work on homework, relax, and mentally prepare for my races. The nerves started to build as I began to get ready. I was so anxious because I wanted to do well, but nervous because I did not know how I would do. It was the first 400 of my outdoor collegiate career and the weather was near perfect: warm, but not hot; a breeze, but no heavy wind.
As I warmed up, the nerves settled and I became excited. The next thing I can distinctly remember was the gun going off. I took off around the first turn, and the straight away all of the sudden seemed much shorter than the previous day. I like the inside lanes because I like to see other people, so my lane placement mentally helped me. Coming off the second turn to the home stretch I was a little behind, but I remembered all the workouts we had that week and used it as fuel.
The last 50 meters felt like slow motion as I caught the leading runners. It was all a blur. When the clock read “54” I was proud, as it was my fastest season opener ever. I ended up not running the 4×4, but I cheered my team on loud and proud! A lot of my teammates had lifetime PRs, as well as posting their fastest season openers, which put a lot of them high in the Big Ten and national rankings. After seeing my teammates do well and coming off of my fastest season opener, I am ready to “work through the week.”
I write now as I have really fulfilled the student-athlete title. We got home around 12 a.m., and today I had lifting, practice, two midterms, and a quiz. Being a student-athlete truly is a job, but a great one that provides amazing experiences.
Entry 5: Opening the Outdoor Season
I can tell I am growing as an athlete and developing a new knowledge of the sport. I was so excited to start outdoor season with my teammates and begin my outdoor collegiate career. There’s nothing that brings a team together than spending 10 hours on the bus. The rides were not bad. We all laughed, talked, watched movies and of course, slept (my favorite).
The first day at Alabama, we practiced and I was re-introduced to long runs. I never thought I’d go on a long run again, but it was nice. It made me remember the beauty of running for 20+ minutes. All of your thoughts and stresses are at ease once you find your running and breathing rhythm. The weather was also beautiful, making the run even better. After we finished practicing, we went out to lunch and back to the hotel. Even though it was spring break, I still had a lot of homework, which is one of the differences between high school and college. That evening, I went to dinner with SoSo, Beatrice, Aisha and some of the boys before relaxing for the rest of the evening.
Friday was day one of competition. I went to breakfast with some of the sprinting girls and then back to the hotel to relax. In order to help settle my nerves, I normally do something to keep me distracted, whether it be homework or watching TV. Before I knew it, it was time to head to the track. Getting on the bus, I was so anxious because I was scheduled to run the 800-meter leg of the Sprint Medley and it was scheduled to be my first race of the season. When we got to the meet, I knew the weather was bad enough for the meet to be delayed, but when the announcer said that it was cancelled, I was shocked. I wanted to run the Sprint Medley because I love relays and I haven’t run the 800 in so long. We stayed in the field house and warmed up to shake our legs out because races were still scheduled for the next day.
The next day, I went through the same routine: breakfast, relax, homework, lunch, get ready to run and head to the track. Over the last couple of months, it’s become a common daily routine. With the SMR being cancelled, all I had was the 4×400 relay, less than 60 seconds of all your effort and focus. When I think of it that way, it becomes easier.
Warming up, I was anxious and my nerves had passed. I knew that it was chilly and windy, but I also knew it was outdoor track. Time flew and before I could get nervous again, SoSo was racing down the home stretch towards me. Once she handed me the baton, I took off. I really enjoyed running the second leg and cutting. The wind was a little rough down the back stretch, but I’d rather have it this way because it’s at my back on the home stretch. I took a deep breath at the 150 mark and held on as I passed the baton to Alexis. When Aisha crossed the line in first place, I was so happy! We had posted the fastest time in the nation.
That evening, some of the sprinters and I walked to dinner and hung out in the hotel before all heading to our rooms for the night. On the way back, the girls and I went an hour without using our phones in order to see what it was like when people didn’t have phones. Despite what most people would think, we made it! It was really a lot of fun. The best of times on this team come from all of us sitting around talking, laughing and sometimes even just sitting there. We always find a way to have fun and it makes spending time with the team something I really look forward to.
We have now returned to campus, which brings me to where I am now, typing my blog. The trip was a lot of fun. I bonded a lot with the team and ran in my first collegiate outdoor meet. I am ready to get back to work academically and athletically as school resumes from spring break.
Entry 4: My First Big Ten Championships
As I stepped off the bus on the day of 600-meter prelims, I knew the purpose was to make it to finals, but also put down a good time to land me in the fast heat. Warming up for the race, I mentally prepared myself as I felt my anxiety and anticipation building. It was one of those days where I just wanted to get the race over with.
As the gun went off, all the nerves went away, the crowd silenced and I took off around the first turn. Coming around to the 400-meter mark, I still felt somewhat decent as I passed. Soon, however, I hit 500 meters and that somewhat decent feeling I had was nearing non-existence. I kept my eyes glued on the finish line and held on. When I crossed the line, unknown to me at the time, I ran a PR. That was my third time running the 600 meters and I felt I left it all on the track. Mentally, the race was a check mark, checking off the task of making it to finals. However, my job was not done; I had to recover, eat and cheer on my teammates.
It was great to be able to watch the long jumpers and the shot putters compete. Those are events I typically don’t get to see, so it was great to be able to cheer on teammates in other events. Both the men and women’s DMRs did great as well.
At the team dinner that evening, we all began to discuss goals we had for the next day. It was fun to be able to eat dinner with the whole team together and congratulate those who made it to finals and those who competed that day. Before I knew it, I was headed to sleep, ready to get up and start the cycle over again.
When I woke up the next morning, I was so anxious and ready to race. Mentally, I was ready. I knew my legs were heavy, but so were other people’s legs. Everyone who made it back to finals had one thing in common: they ran hard the previous day and were feeling a bit sore. As I headed to the track, I envisioned the races and remained positive. We got to the track in time to watch SoSo [Walker] and Champ [Page] in the 400-meter. They both did great, which set the tone for the rest of the day.
As the gun went off in the 600-meter final, I got out, but not as fast as I did in the prelims. I felt I had a pretty good grasp of the race, but Saturday wasn’t my day. I came up just short of the podium. In the moment, I felt I did okay, but I really wanted a spot on the podium and was disappointed in falling shot. I didn’t have time to be upset, however, with less than an hour until the 4×400-meter relay. My team needed me. Of the two races, I was most excited for the 4×4 because I got to be out there with my teammates.
The race was going well. There were a few crowded handoffs and some bumping, but I got the baton and took off for the final leg. I knew it would be close, but didn’t know how it would all shake out until the race. I gave my all, but came up short. We finished second, with a new school record (3:32.88) and one of my fastest splits this season.
I definitely took the 4×400 harder than the 600 because I felt it was all on my shoulders. Some say, “It’s okay, you’re just a freshman.” To be honest, I never really understood that statement. Yes, I am a freshman and young, but your year does not matter when you step on the track. Nobody is going to take it easy on you because of your age. The one advantage to being a freshman is that I have many more Big Ten Championships to fix mistakes made and I grow as an athlete.
Although my first Big Ten meet did not go as well as I wanted, I am happy overall with the outcome. The experience was great and I know now what to expect and I am looking forward to the outdoor championship. SoSo, Beatrice [Hannan], Alexis [Franklin] and I broke the school record again and are headed to nationals. There is no time to be upset in this sport – you use that feeling as fuel to prepare for the next meet. Last Saturday, was not meant to be, and all I can do is train for that when it is meant to be in order to maximize that moment. I am so excited to be able to go to nationals with these girls. We are preparing, mentally and physically, to do our best.
I was once told, “You aren’t serious enough if you don’t know how many days there are until the Big Ten championships.” As I type this now, there are 72 days until the prelims of the 2016 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. I am excited to get back to work in preparation for my moment.
Entry 3: First trip to SPIRE
Coming off our big weekend in NYC, I was ready to get back to work and prepare myself for the SPIRE D1 Invite. Throughout the whole week, I found myself visualizing the race and predicting how I would do, in terms of running and what place I would get. I’ve always told myself to practice hard enough so that racing feels easy. Mentally, it helps because when you put into perspective practices vs. meets, you come to realize you do multiple reps with short rest in between at practice. Whereas, at a meet you are running all out, but your rest is more prolonged. Sometimes, your rest period may be until the next day, which was my case this past weekend. So on Monday during my workout, I told myself, “this is the hard part.” Throughout the week, I practiced with the meet on my mind.
Thursday evening as I was packing my bags, I began to get excited. SPIRE was an amazing facility and I knew my teammates and I were going to do great! When we arrived to the hotel, I found out I was rooming with Christine London and we got to know each other better as a result. A group of my teammates and I ate lunch together before we all went back to our rooms to prepare for our races that evening.
As I boarded the bus to the meet, the nerves began to kick in. It was only my second time running the 600 meters and I wanted to do well. My coaches and I walked through the race and they showed me all the marks while we discussed the game plan for the race. I was so anxious to get out there and run the warm up felt like it was taking forever, up until about 5-10 minutes before the race started. The gun went off before my nerves had enough time to consume my positive mentality.
I took off around the first turn and I remember thinking of the race 200 meters at a time. When I heard Coach Joel [Brown] shout my 200-meter split, I remember being relieved I was on pace. I quickly switched my focus to the next 200 meters as I approached the break line. There was a girl right there, but I told myself, “don’t run her race, run yours.”
As I heard Coach Karen [Dennis] yell my 400-meter time I realized I was a little off, so the last 200 meters I knew I had to move. Coming off the last turn, I pumped my arms frantically as my legs burned and kept my eyes glued to the finish line.
I was pleased with my final time (1:30.98), as I dropped a little over three seconds from my first race. There is still improvement do be done, but I was happy with my performance in only my second 600 ever. With training for the 600-meter run, I have truly been re-introduced to the idea that everyone gets that burn in their legs and it’s all about who deals with it the best. I left SPIRE excited for the 4×4 the following day.
On the way back to the hotel, I realized that on this team, the simplest things like riding on the bus really bring all of us together. We all laughed and talked as we bonded over our shared feelings of hunger and exhaustion. It’s amazing that the smallest things always turn into the best of times. That evening I ate with Aliyah Everson, Alexis Franklin and Martha Sam, despite being exhausted and ready to just go to sleep. We all had a lot of fun.
The next day I had only one event, the 4×400-meter relay. That’s it, just 54-55 seconds, maximum, of giving my all. When I thought about it this way, it made dealing with nerves easier. I was more so excited for our team. I knew how hard we practiced during the week and that hard work wasn’t for nothing. I knew we were prepared and all we had to do was run.
As the gun went off, SoSo [Walker] quickly picked up the stagger putting us in a good position. As she handed to Beatrice [Hannan], I remember looking at the clock and it reading “53.” Beatrice rounded the last turn of her leg and handed to Alexis. I could feel my heart pounding and the adrenaline rush beginning. As I got the baton, I knew it was me vs. the clock – my teammates had done their part and now it was time for me to do mine. The crowd was loud, but all the noise went away and all I could here was my mom, my teammates and my coaches.
As I hit the final 100, all I could hear was Coach Joel. I held his voice in my head as I rounded the home stretch because I was not expecting him to sprint across to the other side of the track.
“Arms, arms, arms!” he yelled.
I pumped them as hard as I could and gave my all. As I crossed the finish line and the announcer said our time, I couldn’t have been any happier as SoSo ran up to me with the biggest smile: “That’s the school record, Karrington!”
We had done it.
This is a memory I will always hold on to. I am so happy for the opportunity to be a part of this team. Great things can only happen from here.
Entry 2: The Armory
As we boarded the airplane for LaGuardia Airport in New York, N.Y., excitement filled as I took my seat patiently waiting for take off. I was so excited to visit the city that never sleeps, but more importantly to step foot in one of the most prestigious track facilities in the world, The Armory. I knew the trip would be chaotic and fast paced, but I was ready for whatever was thrown my way.
As we drove from the airport to the hotel, I got my first taste of New York. People waked across the street fearlessly as cars bobbed and weaved from lane to lane, all to the beat of cars honking repeatedly. When we arrived at the hotel we put everything in our rooms, ate and met back in the lobby to walk to a special viewing of Jesse Owens’ life story, Race. It was an amazing opportunity to see an early viewing of an Olympic great, but more importantly, of a Buckeye. O-H!
The next day, as I prepared for my race I thought about the movie and what Jesse went through in order to run and how he executed his races. It motivated me. Despite getting temporary lost in the subway with my teammates, Aaliyah Barnes, SoSo Walker and Antonio Blanks, we made it to The Armory with plenty of time to spare. Warming up for my open 400, the nerves began to diffuse as I focused on and visualized the race. Before I knew it, I was setting my blocks and the gun went off.
I feel I did well in my 400, but there is still a lot to work on. What I’ve learned is I am often times the hardest on myself, so hearing the support from my coaches and teammates helped. I knew I couldn’t dwell on the 400, because the next day I had the 4×400-meter relay and that came even faster. As I warmed up the next day for another race, again, I visualized myself running and taking advantage of the turns. I focused on getting to the break and not hugging the inside of the lane too much. Before I knew it the gun went off once more.
I took off down the bank track – it was the fastest I ever got out and it placed me in a good position as I broke the stagger. I remember getting to the break first, gradually cutting in and around the turn, and then it happened. I was breathing well, had my rhythm down and someone came down on my left foot. As I regained balance, my momentum was gone. As I handed the baton to SoSo, I felt disappointed and upset. I heard my dad’s voice in my head saying “It’s okay, Karri.” I just didn’t believe it.
As I reconnected with my teammates, I tried not to think about the race. Everyone was encouraging and my coaches told me what went wrong and reassured me it was okay and that the race was a learning experience. If there is one thing I take from this weekend, it is that you cannot focus on the race that has just occurred; you can reference it to learn lessons, but the best thing to do is focus on the race or practices ahead and work off of that previous race.
That evening, we got a little bit of time to explore NYC. I went with the team to Lindy’s and then to Times Square and back to the hotel. I wish I could have done more, but I needed to take an ice bath and take care of my body. Despite being in the “city that never sleeps,” I was exhausted and needed some rest. My first trip to The Armory with OSU was amazing. The experience, both on and off the track, is hard to match. I look forward to preparing for the SPIRE meet this weekend and cannot wait to get back to work.
Entry 1: Why Ohio State?
The Ohio State University, academically, is one of the best colleges in the nation. Coupling that with an amazing athletic department, which includes one of the top track and field programs, made OSU a great place for me. Here at OSU, I am provided endless opportunities in preparation for my career, whether it be professional track or an immediate emergence into the workforce. OSU offers an amazing balance between academics and athletics and I honestly could not see myself anywhere else. I fell in love with the campus, the team, and the Arts and Sciences college.
In early November of 2014, I received a fortune cookie which really sealed the deal. It said “Love is as necessary to human beings as food and shelter” with the lucky numbers of 4, 14, 1, 29, 48 and 35. On the way home, it dawned on me, the love and sense of family I felt at OSU was not matched anywhere else. On top of that, the first four numbers are my birthday (4/14/97) and my sister’s birthday (1/29/96). I was already leaning towards Ohio State, but after reading my fortune, it became a clear sign Ohio State was the place for me. Later that day, I called Coach Karen. Almost a year and a half later, I am in my first season as a Buckeye.