July 4, 2016

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IAFF World Championships Info

Karrington Winters, a rising sophomore and second team All-American sprinter for the Buckeyes, will be documenting her experiences at the 2016 IAAF U-20 World Championships this month. A total of three members of the Ohio State track and field team are set to represent Team USA in Poland, the most of any university nationwide. Winters will be joining Nick Gray and Sade Olatoye as they secured spots on the American team following stellar showings at the 2016 USATF Junior Championships in Clovis, Calif.

Be sure to check back for more entries and photos from her experiences in Poland.

Coming Home and Reflecting

As I sit in the airport and type this, I can honestly say that it was all worth it. The pain and hard work of practicing day in and day out paid off. I got to experience another country for the first time in my life while being able to represent the United States. It was hard to say goodbye to my teammates, because we had grown so close in such little time. This opportunity helped me create friendships that will last a lifetime. Coming off of a personal record in the open 400m dash and our 4×400 relay win, I am feeling confident going into next season. I’ve had doubts throughout the year and they were fading after the World Junior Trials, but now they are absent. While standing on the podium as the National Anthem played, all I could think is “I’ve made it.” This was the perfect way to end my lengthy first collegiate season, but I couldn’t be happier. As I landed in Columbus, I couldn’t tell if I was happy to just be home and see my family or sad that I had to leave all of my teammates. It was a bittersweet ending and I’m proud of my teammates as well as myself. Now, it’s time to rest up as I physically and mentally prepare for what is to come. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to share my experiences from my freshman year, but the time has come for me to pass the torch. It’s time to hear another incoming freshman’s stories on their experience as a Buckeye. Stay tuned to find out who it’s going to be.

I’d like to thank my coaches, family, and everyone who has supported me throughout this year.

Poland: Part 2

Thursday, July 21:

I slept in more today because I didn’t have to run this evening. I did a shakeout before going to breakfast and seeing the trainers. Although, I would have rather been running in the final that evening, I was excited to take advantage of being able to go to the track and support my teammates in the morning session. So, when I got done with treatment, I hopped in the shower, threw on some USA gear and met up with some of my teammates. We rode the train today, which is really cool. The train is on tracks, but it’s on the street, so cars will be driving right next to us. We rode through all the streets and see how people in Poland get around and the little shops along the way, then we hit a certain point and the street opens up and the stadium sits right off to the left. Even though it was ordinary life for the people in Poland, I thought it was really pretty and I’m glad I got the chance to hop on the train and see a different part of the city.

When we got to the track, a group of us sat and cheered on our teammates in their preliminary rounds. I loved being able to be in the stands for once and be a part of the cheer section. I was able to meet more people from other countries, take pictures with them, and get closer with my teammates. After seeing the morning session, we all headed back to the hotel. Instead of having the catered lunch at the hotel that day, Nick and I decided to head to The Square, where there is a strip of restaurants.

We rode the train to the corner and the square then went out to see where we wanted to eat. We saw so many beautiful sights and took a lot of pictures. We took pictures with the athletes from Australia, China, Great Britain and more. After taking pictures, we decided to eat at the place our teammates were talking about: Bobby’s Burgers. Nick got some ice cream before we headed back to the hotel to get some rest before the evening session.

In our true fashion, my teammates and I sat around, talked and played UNO for about 2 hours before heading back to the track for the evening session. That evening, there were a lot of final races, but my favorite to watch, was obviously the 400m final. My teammate and roommate, Lynna and a girl from Jamaica, were running stride-for-stride before the Jamaican edged out Lynna right at the line. The race was amazing and it made me even more excited for the 4×400! Today after that race is when I really began to realize that we may really win this relay. After the finals tonight, most of the team scattered, going to a lot of different places, so Nick and I decided to break off and go to a local favorite place that we heard about on the train. We took our food to go and ate here at the hotel before hanging out and heading to bed. Which, again, brings me to where I am now. I am about to shower and head to bed, so I am signing off for tonight.

Friday, July 22:

This morning I woke up, got treatment, and headed to City Diner for breakfast. We got an order of pancakes, which are actually crepes with strawberries in Poland, but they were still pretty good. After this we headed to the track for handoffs and a light shakeout. When we all felt comfortable with our handoffs and the coaches were satisfied, the 4×400 girls all decided to have lunch at the City Diner that we had this morning as well. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip because we all got to know each other better and developed a bond just in time for the relay to begin. After we finished lunch, we came back to the hotel to shower, relax, and hangout.

After playing UNO and all hanging out in the hotel for a while, we all headed to the train to go and see the evening session. Watching the USA 4x100m relay teams dominate made me really excited for tomorrow. The energy this evening was different, a lot better and more exciting to be a part of the crowd cheering for USA. After the meet, everyone crammed onto the train, as usual, and went back to the hotel or out to eat. I came back to the hotel because we have an early morning tomorrow, we leave at 7:30 for breakfast and then at 7:55 from the hotel to head to the track. So, I am about to eat, get treatment, then head to bed.

Saturday, July 23:

This morning, I got up at 7 a.m. in order to go down for breakfast and be at the bus on time. I was so excited to experience being on a relay in international competition, so waking up early and being a little tired didn’t bother me at all. When we arrived to the track that morning, the 4×400 quartets from each country were very visible, they all either had their hair the same exact way or were jogging and passing the stick to each other. When I saw the clock read 8:50, I knew … it was time! I began my warm-ups and felt good and strong, even better than Wednesday when I ran my PR. When it was time to check in, there were no nerves, but instead, smiles as we got our bibs and took the track.

Before I knew it the gun went off and I was taking the track to get in position to take the baton from Hannah. When I got the baton, we were in 2nd or 3rd. I didn’t panic, but I knew that I needed to catch those girls and give us the lead. I executed the race just as Coach Joel said and used my tangent, or in other words, did cut in sharply, I cut in gradually. The girl who was out ahead of me didn’t seem to cut in gradually, so by the 200m I was about 5-10 meters out ahead. I hit the 150 mark, took a breath, and pumped my arms as I raced towards Syaira. When I reached her, we had the lead and she and Sammy kept in and we ended up posting the fastest U-20 time in the world this year! That’s when it hit me that tomorrow, as I stand on the podium, I really believe that I will hear our national anthem. When Jamaica bettered our time by 1 second in the next heat, I got excited for tomorrow.

When the race was over, we all cooled down before heading for lunch. Most of the girls went to either the hotel or Bobby’s Burgers, but a few of us headed to the mall because the guys wanted pizza and I wanted some grilled chicken. At the mall, we were stopped quite a bit before we could get our food, it took about 30 minutes or so to finally order. I was so hungry, but it also made me feel a great sense of pride in the USA and it was just a reminder that I was part of arguably, the best team at that championship meet. After eating at the mall, I headed back to the hotel and took a nap before heading for treatment. As Lynna and I watched the race, we starting brainstorming possible orders that the coaches could come up with and who would even be racing in the final tomorrow. It made me feel anxious, especially since Coach Joel is heading back to the USA right now. But, I knew I was ready.

On the track tonight, we saw the boys and girls 4x100m win!!! It was amazing, all I could think is “I want that moment. I want a flag, a victory lap, and the title of World Champion”. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to get ready for tomorrow. I’ve prayed on it and really feel that we can do it! I am about to eat now, then head to sleep to rest up for tomorrow. I’m signing off!

Sunday, July 24:

This morning, we followed the same schedule: eat, treatment, hang out and relax. We also found out who would be on the 4x400m, but not the order. Anna, Lynna, and I got ready about 2 hours before we had to leave because we were so excited. We all decided to wear the one piece and brainstormed what to do when we walked out of the tunnel onto the track. Once we realized what we wanted to do, I began to visualize the whole scenario of walking out to the track and the race itself. As we headed to the track, I kept this in mind.

When we heard the order, all four of us were in shock, but we trusted what the coaches were saying and mentally prepared as we warmed up. Although Coach Joel was not there, it was okay, I knew what I needed to do regardless of the the order. The time flew by and before we knew it, the music was playing and the lights were shining down on us as we took to the track. We did our pose and dance, it wouldn’t have been right if I wasn’t off a little bit, but that’s not what mattered. We held hands as we took to the home stretch before heading down to the start line to the tune of our teammates cheering and chanting “USA!”. As I looked at my teammates: Anna, Lynna, and Sammy, all I could think was how cool it was to be running on a team with some of the best juniors in our country. I knew that all of us combined, were a force to be reckoned with. BANG!

The gun went off and Lynna had already broken the stagger by the first turn. She pushed the pace and kept moving, she handed the baton off fairly even with Jamaica, maybe a little ahead. As Anna took the baton, I could see she had the 400m gold medalist on her leg as well, but she held her position well. She split an amazing time and stayed pretty close. They were about a half second ahead of us, everything silenced as I grabbed the baton and took off. I wasn’t sure what the Jamaican girl was doing, but she was in lane 2, not knowing if she was going to cut in or not, I decided to let her do the work on the turn and pass on the straight. About 80m in, I realized that to wait any longer, I’d be running her race and changing what I’m doing, so, with her still in lane 2, I passed her on the inside and kept it moving. I’m not going to lie, I looked up at that camera once or twice and she was still out in lane 2! Bizarre, but anyway, Coach Joel’s voice was in my head as I hit that 150 mark and I kept my head as still as I could and “went to my arms” in his words. When I saw Sammy standing there, all I could think is “you’re almost there, you’re almost done”. When I handed her the baton, the sense of relief that took over my body was unreal as the crowd’s noises and horns resumed. That’s when my legs remembered I just ran a 400 and they started to have that feeling, but for the first time, I really did not care.

As Sammy hit the home stretch and crossed the finish line, I jumped up and down. I could believe it, but I also was in shock, it was surreal. We all cheered along as our team chanted “USA” and we all gave each other a hug. I saw Terry come down from the stands with our flags and I high kneed to him to get it. I was so happy and to know that we all did it as a team, made it that much better. We gave Coach E and Coach Morgan hugs, some of our teammates hugs, and just enjoyed the moment, all while the cameras followed us. Even when we separated, they were right there with us. I thought about my parents and family and how much I could wait to share my memory with them. There was so much going on, but I loved every moment of it. As we took our victory lap, we stopped for pictures, and signed peoples notebooks, shirts,or really anything they had. It was truly amazing.

As we finished our victory lap and through interviews, we raced to the tent where they hold us before the podium so that we could see the boys run the 4×400. When that race was over, the USA had done a clean sweep of all 4 relays! It added to our excitement and it was a great way to end the meet! As we stepped onto the podium and heard our names called, it was still surreal, I was so proud of how far I’ve come, and that all of us from separate teams, could come together and win on such big stage. When the national anthem played, I closed my eyes and it was one of the scenes from the movie where there are flashbacks of your journey and what it took to get to that point. I thought about my struggles, my family, and the work I put in there to be standing amongst the best in the world.

My freshman year ended in the best way possible: a PR and earning the title of being a World Champion. Go USA and Go Bucks! I just got back to the hotel and just ordered a burger, along with Lynna … we also ordered some Sprite! After a long season, nothing is better than an unhealthy, American meal! We are about to get ready for the athletes party tonight before heading out tomorrow morning, so I am signing off for now! Stay tuned for my farewell blog as I pass this tradition onto an incoming freshman.

Poland Blog: Part 1

Preparing for the World Junior Championships was a little different than training for the trials. The goal was the same, but the mentality was stronger going into Poland. The workouts prepped me physically and my mindset prepared me mentally for the championship meet. The time between Clovis and Poland happened very quickly and before I knew it, I was packing up my suitcases.

Traveling: Friday, July 15 and Saturday July 16
Today, Sade and I flew into Chicago and then had to go through security again and re-check our bags for our international flight. I was really excited to meet the team in person, as we had already started a group message and had been speaking with them for a week. I was still a little anxious, not knowing if we all would get along like we do in our group messages. I was also anxious to go out of the country because I never had been and didn’t know what to expect.

After going to baggage claim and getting our bags from our domestic flight, we met up with two of our teammates, Alexis, Duncan and Aaliyah Miller, on the way to the international terminal. They were so nice and I knew it was going to be a great trip! As we went through security for our international flight, we began to see other athletes from our team and everyone clicked and we all got a long pretty well. When we got to our gate we saw another large group of our teammates and we all clicked right away. There were no awkward, silent moments where we all just looked around, wondering what to talk about. We all sat around while talking and laughing, trying to get to know one another.

On our flight, there were free movies, games, and I wasn’t really uncomfortable. I had never been on an international flight, so, I thought everything was really cool. Whereas the girl I sat next to had been on them seemingly as much as I’m on domestic flights. I slept for about 3 hours of the 9-hour flight, so it wasn’t too bad. When we landed, I was so relieved and excited: I now had been out of the U.S.! I called my parents immediately to let them know I had made it. As soon as we landed, the fun really began. It was like I entered into a completely different world. All signs, all announcements … all in Polish! It was very interesting to see everything and be a little uncomfortable because for once in my life, my language was the second language. A simple conversation with someone that normally would take about a minute: took about 5 minutes because of the language barriers. This was only the beginning. As we exited the airport and headed for our bus, we saw China’s bus next to ours and just as we were fascinated with them, they were the same way with us. We quickly snapped pictures of them and their bus and our Polish Snapchat stories began.

As we got to our bus, we quickly learned that the statement “everything is smaller in Europe”, is true. At first everyone was upset, especially because we had to stack bags on the inside, but once we all sat down and got to talking and laughing, we all were fine. The trip was a lot of fun. What should’ve been 2.5 hours turned into about 4. At the time it wasn’t funny and everyone was irritable, but looking back, we had so much fun on that bus. Right now, we have just checked into the hotel and it is nice. Our room is a lot bigger than everyone else’s and so are our beds. I’m rooming with Lynna Irby. She runs the 400m as well, so we will be on the same schedule. We are about to eat dinner and probably hang out before going to bed, so I’m signing off for tonight!

Sunday, July 17th:
This morning we went to the track for a shakeout at the warm up track. I had block starts and sprints. My body felt great despite the 9-hour flight and bus ride. We got to see other athletes from other countries working out at the track as well. One of the Japanese athletes almost got knocked over because one of my teammates didn’t make any noise signaling that he was coming by, he just yelled “track!”. Which, in the United States, is the signal for getting someone to move off the track immediately. The language barriers between all the countries is amazing. When our shakeout was finished, Lynna and I had the opportunity to take pictures with other countries and meet them. Despite the language differences, when you saw someone pull their phone out, you knew it was to exchange social media and/or take a picture. It was fun being able to see people from different cultures come together for a mutual interest.

After we got back from the track, a big group of us ate, showered and headed to the mall. At first glance, the mall was identical to an American mall, but I was mistaken. The food court has the same food places, but the menus differ. The mall has an escalator, but there aren’t stairs on it. It’s basically a moving ramp to get you from floor to floor (this was probably my favorite feature of the mall). The only English within the stores that I saw was “Air Jordan” or “SALE”, everything else was in polish. Oh, another thing! There aren’t many African- Americans in Poland, so people looked at me in fascination when they saw me. People also enjoyed taking pictures with all of us U.S. athletes. At the mall that day I also saw someone with an OSU shirt on. It’s amazing that across seas I was able to meet an alumnus.

After the mall, that evening, I saw the trainers for treatment before heading to the team meeting. We learned the “USA” chants/cheers, it made me so excited to get out there and represent my country! It’s just now setting in that I am here in Poland to represent the United States of America, I knew that we all were ready to dominate. We were all excited for what that week had in store. After the meeting, we all hung out for a while before heading to our rooms to get some rest. Which brings me to where I am now, signing off for the night!

Monday, July 18:
Today, I woke up at 4:33 a.m. thinking that I was late for breakfast because it was so bright outside. It’s one of the strangest things about Poland: the sun rises around 4 a.m. Fortunately, I was able to fall right back asleep and woke up around 8:30 to head down for breakfast. We went out to the track for a simple shakeout and headed back to the hotel to shower before we were able to do a walk through in the actual stadium and get a feel for the track.

A huge group of us went to the walkthrough at the track and got to see the call room, mixed zone and the general procedure for race day. I enjoyed being able to see everything because I was able to start creating the mental image in my head of what race day would entail. After seeing everything and walking a lap in the lane I’d be running in the next day, Lynna and I decided to go meet people and take pictures. We stopped anyone we saw and others stopped us as well. We swapped social media and took pictures. It was hard to understand some of the athletes, which was funny, but something I was looking forward to. I met a lot of people from across the world and this is just the beginning.

When we got back to the hotel everyone hung out and I also received some treatment. After a while I called it a night because I had to race the next day. Which brings me, again, to where I am now. Tomorrow I have round one and am really excited to get out there and represent the USA!

Tuesday, July 19th and Wednesday July 20th:
Both today and yesterday (Tuesday) I followed the same schedule because both days were race days. I got up around 9 a.m., ate breakfast, shook out and saw the trainers. I left each day about 2-3 hours before my race. When we got there, it was chaotic, yet controlled. There was a lot going on, so I put on some headphones, silenced the noise and maintain a focus on the race and the task at hand. Seeing Coach Joel come into the warm up area, I knew it was time. Both days I followed the same warm-up regime and was in the call room 25 minutes before my race. Walking out into the stadium and hearing the crowd’s diverse chants is something I will never forget. The one chant that was the most honoring, was hearing my teammates chanting “USA”. It was another reminder that I was representing my country and what an honor it was to do so.

On Day 1, I ran to make it through and when I accomplished that, it was a relief and I was onto the next round. It was nice to be able to get a race in on the track, just in case there was any rust that I needed to shake off. I remember feeling stronger than ever. I normally hunch right over, but I walked directly to the Mixed Zone and was standing up and just felt good. I saw Coach Joel, then was off to the warm up track to shake off, and to get a flush. Yesterday, Day 1, after I competed, I returned to the hotel, ate, saw the trainers and got ready for bed.

This morning I woke up and followed the same routine, I was more anxious because it was the semifinal and I had lane 9. But, Coach Joel helped a lot because he made it all seem so simple and told me what I need to go out there and do: give myself a chance. When the gun went off, I took off around the first corner feeling stronger than I ever have. Coach Joel’s voice in my head silenced out the crowd and as I hit the 250m, I felt the girls coming on the inside, so I kept my head still and my pumped my arms. My legs were tired, but my heart wouldn’t let me give up. Although I did not make the finals, I placed 9th and finished the season on a high note: a PR in Poland! I was so happy. It’s been a long, roller coaster season, so I was proud of myself that I peaked at this time. Seeing Coach Joel smile and say “good job” was one of the best feelings. That evening, I decided to hang out a little longer than I usually would because I had two days off. I just ate and showered and now I am heading to play UNO with some of my teammates before I head to bed. So I am signing off for today! Stay tuned for the next chapter of my trip!

Freshman Year Recap and Cali: World Junior Trials

Freshman year was a roller coaster season for me. I learned a lot about track, but more importantly about myself. Coming into college, for me, was a smooth adjustment, academically and athletically. I had a few bumps and lost trust in myself and my body, but I slowly regained it and don’t plan on losing it again. After nationals, my focus was solely on the World Junior Trials, an opportunity to end my season on a good note. In preparation for the meet, I worked on consistency and finishing through the line.

The night before we left for World Junior Trials, I said a prayer with my family and visualized my race. When my alarm went off at 4 a.m., I couldn’t tell if I was more excited to head to California or if I was more upset it was 4 a.m. There were five athletes that went: Nick Gray, Coty Cobb, Sade Olatoye, Mikaela Seibert and myself as well as Coach Ashley and Coach Joel. The smaller trips, to me, are always more fun because we spend most of the time each day together, which brings us all closer. If there is one phrase that would describe the first day it would be hilariously adventurous.

So, we get off the plane and everyone is really excited to be in California finally (our flight was a no plane change, connection flight … 5 1/2 hours long). After claiming our baggage, we went to the rental car place and since Coty’s pole vaults couldn’t fit in the elevator, Coach Ashley took their bags and they waited outside for us to bring the cars to them. We get the cars and drive down to get the guys and get the pole vaults onto the car … let me re-phrase, Mikalea and I sat in the car because there were “too many cooks in the kitchen”, so we sat back, everyone else got the poles up on the car. We drive with our loaded cars, minus Coty and Nick’s bags, and headed to the nearest shopping plaza to go to Walmart for water and grab lunch. After lunch, we headed to Home Depot to get straps for the pole vaults and we are on our way. That’s when Mikaela gets a call from Coty as he wondered where he and Nick’s bags were. That’s when it hit me: I knew exactly how the bags got left (I’m laughing about this still today). So, when we were checking in at the rental car place, Coach Ashley, the girls, and I were loading up the bags in both cars so that everything fit, that we forgot that Coach Ashley left their bags at the National kiosk. So, we all left the airport with our cars loaded, but their bags stayed put. Luckily, we were able to go back to their airport and retrieve them at the front desk with no problems.

After retrieving their bags, we started on our drive to our hotel. About an hour or so into the trip, we began to come across road side fruit stands and we took a five-minute stop, so that we could get some fresh fruit and the view was amazing. An hour later we arrived at the hotel, quickly changed and headed to the track to get our credentials. Now, the credential pick-up closed at 6 p.m. and when we pulled up with one minute to spare (5:59 p.m.). So adding to our day, we had to sprint and of course, the building we needed to go to was the furthest away, but we received our official credentials with our name and membership number. After leaving there we headed over to the track to walk through our races and get a feel for the track, which was a really nice Mondo track. Then we went to the warm-up area to shakeout and back to the hotel.

The next day, we did our normal routine: eat breakfast and go to the track to shakeout. Coach Joel and I worked on my blocks and I became more comfortable despite a small change we made. I felt mentally and physically prepared for my race and was ready to go. That evening Sade, Coty and Nick competed as Mikaela and I cheered in support of them. That evening it was amazing to see Nick go 10.28 in the 100m and stamp his ticket to Poland and take advantage of the opportunity to represent the USA. As he crossed the line, according to Nick, it was a surreal moment and he was so excited to be able to wear USA across his chest, sport the gear and represent USA in Poland. With Nick’s ticket already punched to Poland, it gave me even more motivation and focus going into the next day.

Going into the prelims, I knew what I needed to do in order to execute the race and I didn’t do it exactly how I needed to the last 30m, but I made it in and I couldn’t have been happier with my season best time up to that point. I stopped thinking, got out of my way, and just ran. The day seemed to go by really fast, so I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember feeling more relaxed after the race than before and it was just what I needed after a long season. After my race, as I cooled down and did treatment, I got to see Sade throw and punch her ticket to Poland and all I could think is “tomorrow is my time”.

Before I knew it, I was warming up for my race on the final day and I had never felt more physically and mentally prepared. I think prelims was the boost that I needed and so in finals I felt confident and relaxed. My block starts felt great and my runouts felt even better, so for the first time there wasn’t a little panic when I heard, “last call girl’s 400m”. The gun went off, I came out the blocks and before I could really grasp what was was happening, I was at the 200m and it was time for me to really just leave it all on the track. When I crossed the line I was in shock and it felt unreal. I just looked up in the crowd and saw Nick jumping up and down and I couldn’t believe it. To add to the excitement, I fulfilled a goal I set earlier in the season by running a lifetime PR. I couldn’t wait to get home to my parents and give them a hug. I could hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, “I knew you could do it”. On the podium I kept my composure, but I was so happy because that’s when I found out I was also in the open 400m as well as the 4x400m. When the announcer said, “and in second place and going to Poland, Karrington Winters” I couldn’t contain my smile any longer.

After I got off the podium, we all walked back to the holding area where the head coaches of the junior team pulled those who made it on the team off to the side. They gave us a sheet of paper which directed us to the National Team Sign-up, we went through the media tent, then to grab our clothes and bags. After I got my things, I cooled down, got in the ice bath, and headed to find Coach Joel. When I found him and gave him a big hug. He’s really calm, but I could tell deep down he was happy! Coach Ashley took me to the National Team Sign up. Signing up for my first national team will be an unforgettable experience: trying on the gear, seeing yourself in a USA uniform for the first time, your competitors becoming your teammates. It’s an amazing experience and I’m so happy to have taken advantage of the opportunity that I had and coming home a USA Team member.