"As Fast As You Can": Running The 100 Meter Dash

Gisella Brok

The difference between 13.5 and 13.6 seconds is “like a 10-second difference for a miler.”

As you may know, the shortest race in track, and the one that “everyone wants to run,” is the 100-meter dash. This is just one straightaway on the track, the equivalent of a ¼ lap.

On the Lovett track team, only six people (three girls and three boys) were able to go to regionals for the open 100-meter dash. One of these athletes was senior Hailey Savage. Along with the 100m, she ran the 4 by 100, which is the relay where four people run 100 meters, and the 200. Her favorite is the open 100.

You might expect one of our best open 100-meter runners to have a certain strategy for winning races, but Hailey doesn’t really have one. The people she runs against are “competitive and know what they’re doing” which she says jokingly that she isn’t, but I doubt that. She always makes sure to follow the coach's advice of getting properly warmed up before running. She noted that “warm-ups are sometimes tiring,”  and we both ended up laughing at the pain of warming up in all sweats in 80° weather. 

When we were at regionals warming up, we had to make sure to get the timing right so that we weren’t all warm 20 minutes before the race even started. These warm-ups consisted of a bit of what we do at practice and some extra things we do just on meet days (like ice cream scoops). Personally, the only strategy I go into a race with is: start with your head down and go as fast as you can (which is probably what all runners think).

In preparation for the race, she said that “speed work helps more” than conditioning because this race is all about speed. Hailey also missed most of the conditioning due to cheer, so she came straight into meet season (which obviously didn’t hold her back from being fast).

Once she steps on that start line though, the only thing to focus on is how she runs it. The fact that it’s so short makes it both easy and hard. “Anything can mess it up,” Hailey says. One of the most important parts is the start because if you don’t get a good start, it could throw off the entire race.

To learn more about how the 100 meter looks from the coach’s perspective, I talked to Coach Mary Olszewski (Coach O.). She explained how it's super important to be very warm before actually running the race. It’s easy to get injured “with such a fast race and going all out,” so being warm before running helps prevent those injuries. 

Another main focus is the technical aspect of things. In practice, runners focus a lot on blocks because of how important the start is. It’s also important to know how to transition into a full-speed sprint and keep it that way all the way through the line. Strength work helps prepare athletes, but also the minor details such as not looking around while running makes a huge difference. 

Since the 100m dash is “very different from other races,” it requires some different coaching. It requires a lot of strength and speed, so along with doing things like stadium and hill work to add speed, athletes will go to the weight room to work on strength. It’s also a lot more technical than other races. “New athletes have trouble finishing all the way,” Coach O. explained, and one of the things I remember her telling me at practice was to pretend that the line was further than it actually is. Every fraction of a second matters in the 100, so getting the idea of coming out of the block with your head down then transitioning to a full-out sprint through the line is important to get down. 

Just because it’s a short race definitely doesn’t mean it’s easy to coach for. Coach O. mentioned how she didn’t run the 100-meter dash in high school, so it’s “not as easy to relate” when trying to coach. Even though her main struggle is “her lack of knowledge with such a short sprint,” we have many other coaches that help guide the athletes. It’s easy for both runners and coaches to get frustrated due to how short it is, and the difference between 13.5 and 13.6 seconds is “like a 10-second difference for a miler.” Another thing is that “everyone wants to run it” so getting them to branch out and run other races can be hard.

The way that coaches can get them to branch out is to see what kind of races they’d fit best in. A time trial, which is when everyone runs a timed lap at the beginning of the season, is “a good mid-distance run to get an idea of who does what.” For example, if someone does really well in the first 200 meters but dies out at the end, coaches know that they are a shorter sprinter. If they are able to maintain their speed for the whole 400, the athlete will get pushed to try the 200 or 400-meter dashes. “Just those who are super quick on their feet and have speed” usually get chosen for the 100-meter dash, Coach O explained.

With such a short and technical race, it’s exciting when someone surprises either themselves or their coaches! Hailey brought up how at the beginning of the season, when she came straight from cheer, she hit her PR at 14.13 seconds, which she described as her most surprising moment of the season! 

Coach O. highlighted two runners in whom she really saw “transformation and growth," and they highlighted the importance of running form. Senior Sadler Stukes has “come a long long way” since he was a freshman. His form improved “drastically,” and they soon realized that he could be put in a variety of races. 

Rex Wilson also improved a lot between last year and this year in speed, form, and getting used to using blocks. “He also got stronger and taller, which helps with stride,” Coach O. explained. She also added that “height definitely helps.”

The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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