A difficult event

Wednesday, April 9 2008

By: Dan Cusack/Sports Reporter

Posted: 4/9/08

Track events are usually pretty ordinary.

Either it is a straight race or all you have to do is jump over a few hurdles. You see how long or high you can jump, and usually there is nothing out of the ordinary.

Well that was what I thought until I witnessed my new favorite race on Friday at the EIU Big Blue Classic: the steeplechase.

The race is run just like any other. The individual participants run 3,000 meters and they jump over hurdle-like barriers, but there is one difference.

For what seems like absolutely no reason at all, on the other side of the barrier is a pit of water for eight of the nine laps.

Junior steepleweb Atkinson, who ran the race last season, said running the steeplechase is intense.

He said there was a small sheet of ice on top of the water during the Big Blue Invite last season.

Atkinson finished 10th last season. This season, freshman Derek Ericson finished seventh on Friday, and no Eastern female athlete competed in the event.

Atkinson said athletes must wear special shoes, which are designed to drain the water out so soaked shoes do not hold them back.

Friday afternoon was not warm with the temperature hovering around 58 degrees, and the water was dark brown. As you might guess, the biggest crowd of the day was next to the water pit.

Whether the bystanders admitted it or not, they all wanted to see an athlete go down into the water and run the rest of the race wet and cold.

Instead, these steeplechasers had the most guts of any track athletes.

Lap after lap, these athletes' feet and legs landed in the water, turning their legs bright red by the final lap.

Not only were these athletes competing against each other and the weather, but they also competed against themselves.

The steeplechase is my new favorite race and not just because of the water pits.

The conditions the athletes must endure, the combination of hurdles, running and speed make this race the most fun to watch.

Dan Cusack can be reached at 581-7944 or at dscusack@eiu.edu.

© Copyright 2008 The Daily Eastern News