Sometimes, being pushed into something new can be a good thing. Andre, now a sophomore at Alabama’s Auburn University, still holds the second-best high school triple-jump mark of all time (53 feet, 7 3/4 inches), and was named Track and Field News National Track Athlete of the Year in 1994. Last year, he earned All-American honors for the triple jump at the NCAA indoor national championships.
“Well, I had the talent to do it, but I also worked really hard,” Andre remembers. “To get from where I started to where I am now, I had to be motivated and stay motivated. Back in high school, it was easier, in a way. I had all the time in the world to spend out there training for the triple. But now, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with training and competitions and classes all at the same time. I want to someday teach industrial education and P.E. in high school, but the two majors are very different, and it will be tough to get all the credits in. But I’ll get it done. And as for the Olympic trials, my goals are just to get into the weight room, get stronger, get faster–and make the team.”
Suzy Powell, discus and javelin: “I got into track in fifth grade to keep myself in shape for soccer,” Suzy recalls. “But then my dad [coach Mac Powell] asked me to try the discus. I was reluctant at first, because the stereotypes that go along with the discus aren’t exactly every girl’s dream. But I was good at it, and that became sort of intoxicating for me.”
By the time she graduated from high school in 1994, she held every U.S. high school record in the discus, and was named the 1994 Track and Field News Women’s High School Athlete of the Year.
“I think I learned at a very early age that discipline and hard work really pay off.”
Suzy is a sophomore at UCLA this year. School and training keep her very busy. Each day, she goes through a training drill that takes her several hours: weight lifting, throwing discus and javelin, running, and “drills.”
“What’s good about being at UCLA is that I’m surrounded by people who are so good [at discus and javelin], too. And somehow, that makes my own dreams seem more realistic. I’m lucky to have a great support group. I don’t know what will happen at the trials. I think it’s going to take me a couple of years to get to a level at which I can be one of the top five in the world, so if I make the team for ’96, that will be a great accomplishment in itself. I’m even thinking about the Olympics in 2000–they’re a good goal, too.”
And You Can Do It, Too
Each of these young athletes is in training for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. But their goals don’t begin and end with bringing home an Olympic medal. They are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of good health and physical fitness.
You don’t have to get into training for world-class competition. You don’t have to spend hours a day. But you do have to make a start. A recent survey showed that only 37 percent of all high school students exercise vigorously for 20 minutes three or more times a week.
New Jersey teacher Len Saunders heads Proift ACES, a program that has kids in all 50 states and 50 other countries exercising “all together” this May. “A lot of kids and teens are at home, their parents are both working, they can’t go outside, and gym once or twice a week isn’t enough.
“I tell my students I can only do so much for them–and after that, it’s up to them. I try things with them like something I call `Commercial-cizing.’ Kids and teens average about 23 hours a week in front of TV sets– so I get them to commit to doing five pushups or some other kind of exercise every time there’s a commercial. That can be a lot of pushups!”