The University of Cincinnati indoor track and field team will take part in its first-ever BIG EAST Championships this weekend at the Akron Athletics Fieldhouse. The two day event will kick off on Saturday, Feb. 18 in Akron, Ohio and will feature 16 women's indoor squads.
Should the Bearcats find much success in Akron, they will be able to propel that success to the NCAA Championships in Arkansas. The Cincinnati qualifiers will have three weeks to ready themselves for the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships, which will be held on March 10-11 in Fayetteville, Ark.
One of UC's expected qualified is senior "Multi" Ashley Wilhelm, who has been a do-it-all type of athlete for the Bearcat women's team this season; a season that has seen them lose many players to injury and illness (mono), including team captain . Coach Jim Schnur sees his women's team as performing at only about "sixty to seventy percent of their could-be potential." For that reason, the Bearcats have relied heavily on versatile athletes such as Wilhelm to carry them into the postseason. Wilhelm, a pentathlete, has also participated in "opens" in the pole vault, long jump and high jump.
Here is an interview with UC's Ashley Wilhelm
Ashley, first off, how tired are you? Competing in all the events you do, has it just been a draining season for you physically?
I'm pretty tired, I guess I am just getting old (laughing). I mean, we've had a lot of injuries so they coaches have asked a lot of us to do a lot of different things. It gets tiring some times but you just have to suck it up and do what is best for the team because it is all about the team.
You talk about "sucking it up" and "doing it for the time", have you found yourself maybe sacrificing a score or being able to participate in a particular event because the team needs you to do something else?
Yeah, I wouldn't say it happens a lot but there have been times when I've maybe had to not enter an event because its time clashed with another event or I would just be too tired to be affective in both. Luckily, at the Big East I should have a couple hours between the pentathlon and the long jump, so I am glad about that. I told myself that I wouldn't enter an event in the middle of the pentathlon so when I found out it was the long jump I had to rethink that really quickly (haha), but luckily the times don't conflict too much. I'll just hope that I get a good enough score to quality for NCAA's early enough that I can rest a bit earlier.
You guys have faced a lot of injuries so you've maybe been asked to do a little more than you normally would, how comfortable are you with that pressure being on you?
I love it! I really wasn't recruited coming out of high school and didn't really know what to expect when I came here, so the fact that I get to do so many thing for my team and really be successful is something I am really proud of. It shows me a lot about how hard I've worked and how grateful I am for having the opportunity to participate in all these events.
I know that watching athletes like former Olympian Dan Johnson enter in "multi" events and the announcers will talk about "looking for scores" or knowing certain times or distances they'll need in order to win or stay in the hunt. Participating in so many events, do you see yourself doing the same thing; do you know times or scores that you'll need going into events and maybe take it easy?
Yeah, that happens a lot. I know when I have a run coming up or if I need to get a certain time and still have a chance to win. I usually have a coach or my parents or someone sitting in the stands trying to figure out the formula so that I'll know what I need to run. I will be thinking to myself, ‘I need to get 1:28' and then my parents or someone will tell me I need a 1:30 and I am just, like, "I can do it. No problem'. I mean, you try to win every time you step out onto the track, but you have to be smart about it.
You talked earlier about the "team aspect" of track and field, how big is that really? It seems from the outside that it is more of an individual sport, how does "team" come into play?
Well, you are out there competing on the track by yourself, trying to win the event, but in the back of your mind you know that by doing my personal best I am going to be helping my team be successful.
So, what is the role of the "team" and " teammates" in the sport? How do teammates help?
Well, I know for myself, when I am entered in an event and I see one of the sprinters over on the sidelines before I am about to make a jump it really pumps me up. Seeing them cheering me on and trying to lift me up really gets me going. I think it means a lot that people in other events are out there supporting you because they need you to win. They aren't just worried about their own score or time, they care about a team as well.
You mentioned the "sprinters" in your last statement. That really seems to be an interesting little aspect of track. In other sports you have different positions, but in track you have groups like "throwers", "hurdlers", "sprinters", distance"," leapers" that really don't seem to have a whole lot of interaction with one another. Can you talk about how practices are run and how close the team is during a meet or practice?
Well, you're right. For the first three weeks or so at the beginning of the season we all train together and that is really our time for bonding as a team. After that we break off into our separate groups and don't really get to spend a lot of time with one another on the field. They only time we really spend together as a team is during our warm-ups. The entire team always warms up with one another.
Being that you maybe don't get to spend a whole lot of time with the other groups if you are labeled a "leaper" or "thrower" or what have you, do you think having athletes such as yourself, the "multis" I guess you call them, helps maybe bond the team in some way?
Yeah, I really do. I mean, I train with literally everybody, so I have a lot of relationships with people other members of the team won't. It really helps me feel more apart of the team.
Do you help bring that closeness to other members of the team?
Yeah, I think that I do, because I will be stretching with the runners and I will start to tell a story about what someone did yesterday in practice and I will ask them if they knew about that happening or if they've had a chance to talk to that person, and they generally don't because they never see them. So maybe a story that I tell them will get them to go talk to that person that they normally wouldn't have and that really helps bring the groups together.
Could you talk a little bit about the differences in the INDOOR and OUTDOOR seasons? I know that the track is a bit shorter indoors and it really does a number on your legs, and obviously you have a controlled environment, but what really is the difference?
Well, first off, the indoor track really does hurt your leg --wow, it really is not fun to run on at all --and you do get the add from the wind in certain events, so I think it just comes down to the event and the person. Indoor is probably better all-around for the non-running events then outdoor for the most pat. However, I know I personally enjoy outdoor more.
Do you equate the two seasons equally, do you look at them as two equal seasons, or is Indoor more of a warm-up for the "real" season?
I would say that we look at it more as a warm-up, I know I do at least. You still go out and try to win, but you really use it to see where you stand and so how you are going to do Outdoor. It really helps you gauge what type of season you are going to have and tells you what you need to work on.
You talked about how these season has helped you ‘see where you stand' personally, does it help do the same with the competition? Can you get a sense, especially being in a new conference, who is good and how talented the conference is going to be?
It is definitely nice to see the competition and know what you are getting yourself into come the Outdoor season. You can see times on paper, but those really mean nothing. I know in high school I ran like the second or third best time going into States, and when I got to the meet I finished like eighth, so, yeah, it helps to compete against them and see them perform. It definitely helps, especially being in a new conference – because we aren't really going to have those rivalries we've developed in C-USA. T
Are you going to miss those rivalries?
Yeah, of course, but bringing some of the teams from Conference USA will really help, because you know some of the faces you are competing against.
Even though you might not value it as much as you do the Outdoor, have you thought a lot about the fact that this could be your last go round performing competing indoors?
To be honest, I've thought about it a lot recently. I mean, I have family and friends that haven't been to an Indoor event in the four year that I've been here, and they are coming to this one. It is really letting me know that this might be the last time I do this indoors – but, hopefully, I will perform well enough that it will not have to be.
Obviously you still have the Outdoor season ahead of you,so it I not like you do not still have some time competing at UC. However, even now, do you know what you want to do with track after you graduate? Do you still plan on being involved in the sport post-UC, and in what capacity?
Actually, my plans are to redshirt this outdoor season, but I'll still compete in open meets.
Oh really, what made you decide to do that?
I've really wanted to the decathlon for awhile, and the United States finally adopted for the women's competition so I will finally have the chance to compete. I'm really interested in doing that and I think I could do really well.
I think if I train hard enough I should do pretty well. I seemed to pick up the pole vault pretty naturally-- I think I am improving with every vault--and I have all the events down already so I figure might as well give it a try.
The pole vault is a relatively new addition to women's track and field, is it not?
Yeah, they didn't have it as women's sport when I was going to High School at Indiana. I picked it up a couple times in high school, and I really liked it. My coach told me that if I wanted to compete my points would be counted toward the men's total if I managed to score. So, yeah, I know that a lot of states were like Indiana and didn't have it as an event until all that recently.
So [haha], after you "finish" competing at UC do you know what you want do with your life and the role track will play in it?
I still have the outdoor year next season to compete, and go from there. I mean, it really depends on how I perform at these last couple indoor meets and then during the Outdoor season. If I do well and see myself improving then I may look to train four the next few years and see how far I can take it, and see how good I can become…but right now I am really just concentrating on the Big East meet (said Wilhelm laughingly). No matter what though, I really want to coach at the high school level. That is my major, secondary education, and it is something that I am really looking forward to doing
Big East Championship News and Notes:
• UC enters its first season of competition in the Big East Conference in 2006. The conference features 16 women's indoor track & field teams, constituting the largest league in the nation. The 2006 Big East Championships will be held on Feb. 18-19 at the University of Akron's Athletics Fieldhouse.
• The Bearcats have qualified 11 athletes (in 19 events) for the 2006 BIG EAST Championships.
• Senior Shintara Carpenter (triple jump), junior Renee Hein (high jump), sophomore Brittany Klima (pole vault), and senior Ashley Wilhelm (pentathlon) are current indoor school record-holders.
• Head coach Jim Schnur is in his 22nd year at Cincinnati and his sixth as head women's coach.