How cross-training with track could change your athletic performance in your sport
Junior wide receiver Mikhail Seiken steps up to the line of scrimmage. The football game is seconds away from ending, and the score is tied between the Blazers and the Paint Branch Panthers. Seiken watches as beads of sweat stream down the opposing cornerback’s face, pooling at the base of his helmet. The defender’s chest quickly rises and falls as he struggles to calm his ragged and labored breathing. However, before he has the chance, Blair snaps the ball and Seiken is off sprinting towards the end zone. Seiken dusts his defender, creating enough open space to catch a pass and run for the touchdown. The game is over, thanks to Seiken’s fitness advantage over his defender.
How was Seiken able to outrun the defender so easily?
The key to success in your individual sport may not be so complicated. For many sports, cross-training with track in the off season will greatly improve athletic performance. There are already a handful of student-athletes at Blair who use track to cross-train for their main sports in the other seasons.
Let’s return to that first example. Ultimately, Seiken has found more success in football due to his training in track. As a wide receiver in football, it is crucial to have lightning quick speed, endurance and agility. In track, you can train all of those in different events. Seiken, for example, runs the 110 meter hurdles (110mH), as well as the 100 meter (100m) and 200 meter (200m) events. Running the 110mH requires each competitor to jump over 10 39-inch hurdles while maintaining speed and balance, a true test of athleticism. Meanwhile, the 100m and 200m are all-out efforts of speed and short spurts of endurance that test an athlete’s sprinting capabilities.
After doing track in the winter and spring, Seiken noticed a major improvement in overall fitness when football season next fall came rolling around. “While [I was] doing track, it got up my endurance and helped with short sprints… Hurdling definitely got my hips more flexible, which definitely correlates to football with juking out opponents… and making a lot of cuts,” Seiken says.
Photo: Junior wide receiver Mikhail Seiken is finally tackled after gaining yards for Blair. Photo courtesy of Maggie Megosh
Another student-athlete at Blair, junior Brendan White, used track to prepare for his upcoming tryouts for the Blair soccer team. He noticed major improvements in fitness after participating in track. “Especially right after track season, I noticed that I was a lot quicker on my feet and [I] definitely [developed] more endurance and speed,” White says.
During track season, White mainly ran the 800 meter (800m) and 400 meter (400m) race, both of which are considered some of the hardest events in track. These events later prepared White for his soccer season, where at tryouts, athletes ran six miles. Due to months of cross-training with track, White was able to beat his personal record in a two mile race by nearly a minute, cutting down from 13:20 to 12:30. After the tryouts, he was recruited to the boy’s varsity soccer team, thanks to his skills and improved fitness.
Not only was White in better shape after track, he was more confident in his playing and fitness capabilities. “Because I did track, I felt like I just had a slight advantage over a lot of other people [playing soccer], and knowing that made me more confident,” White says.
White is not the only person who noticed a change in confidence after running track. Junior Mckinley Jovanovic ran the hurdles, the 400m and threw shot put and discus during track. The following winter, Jovanovic joined the Blair wrestling team, a completely new experience for her. However, Jovanovic quickly found success in this sport, and as the season came to an end, she placed 5th in her division at the 2022 MPSSAA (MD) State Wrestling Championship in her first year of wrestling.
She explains how cross-training with track was vital to her fitness in wrestling, which led to inevitable success. “Maybe your opponent is physically stronger than you or has more techniques than you, but it definitely is a huge advantage [to have that fitness from track]. For example, in the third period, they’re tired and trying to stall and back away from you just because they’re so tired they don’t want to keep going. But having the endurance gives you that confidence to know that, ‘Ok, it’s fine. I’m still going to have the strength to continue to score points,’” Jovanovic says.
While cross-training with track clearly improves an athlete’s performance in their sports, there is also a great community in track. With dedicated coaches and supportive teammates, athletes can enjoy close relationships on and off the track. Jovanovic explains how track communities are both large and small, supportive and caring. “Track is a very good community. Within that too, depending on what events you run, there is also a community. Like I am in the sprints group, and we would do a sprints’ potluck…We are all so different than each other outside of the season, but because of running together we are close,” Jovanovic says.
Although student athletes at Blair can further our understanding of cross-training with track through personal experiences, coaches provide expert opinions when it comes to sports. One of the current head coaches for track at Blair, Terry Johnson, ran Division 1 sprinting for track at Ohio State University. After four years of training at one of the top 10 universities for track, Johnson came away with the knowledge of how track does not only improve overall physical fitness, but also strengthens mental abilities by helping to overcome adversity. “Pretty much every day, in a workout, you’re pushing your body to the limit. You’re so used to doing that and you trust in your body and trust in your training…You will really have no fear going into practices or going into other things that you have going on,” Johnson explains.
Not only do former track athletes and coaches emphasize the importance of cross-training with track, but so do coaches from other sports. Blair varsity football’s head coach, Samuel Nosoff, loves seeing his football athletes train with track in their off-season, as he notices major improvements with many of them after doing so. “We encourage most of our skill position players, receivers, defensive backs, running backs, linebackers, etc…to run track in the off-season. I’d like to see all of our skill position players run track,” Nosoff says.
Whether your main sport is wrestling, football or soccer, track can play a key role in your athletic success. At Blair, we can see this exemplified in star student-athletes like Seiken, White and Jovanovic, who all noticed great performance and relationship improvements after track. Coaches and highly successful former track athletes such as Johnson and Nosoff also highly praise the importance of training with track. Athletes who are not already cross-training with track should seriously consider it. They might be shocked to see how much they’ll improve.
Alex Feingold-Black. Hey! I'm Alex [he/him] and I'm a writer for SCO. Outside of school you can find me running laps around a track and eating from Potbelly's Sandwich Shop. More »