Oct. 22, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. - The true character of a team is shown when it faces adversity. The unknown is how one will react when challenges arise. The Oklahoma softball coaching staff is trying to prepare should such a situation occur this season.
That's one of the biggest reasons that the Sooners take part in a triathlon every fall.
This year's version, held at Zoom Beach on Lake Thunderbird, featured a 400-yard swim, followed by a grueling crossfit training session on the beach before culminating in a 3.2 mile run.
"With the triathlon, you know that those are things we don't do on the softball field," associate head coach Melyssa Lombardi explained. "With this event, though, we have the opportunity to watch these young athletes compete and get out of their comfort zones to do things that they haven't done before.
"You put them in awkward situations and watch them fight through it," remarked Lombardi. "They get to do something they've never done before and be victorious with it."
The event initially began as a 5K run, but has evolved into a triathlon and grown each season.
"They've gradually gotten tougher because we're getting more educated as coaches on what challenges to throw in there," assistant coach Tripp MacKay said. "For example, this year we brought in the crossfit section and that was huge when we talk about barriers.
"Almost all of them will say that was the toughest part of the triathlon."
Coach Lombardi echoed that sentiment.
"We've done it over 10 years, but this was, by far, the toughest triathlon we've ever done," she said.
"What's cool, though, is that every year we've made it more difficult, the players still just battle through it.""
Sophomore infielder Jessica Vest was the first out of the water as she completed the swim in a time of 7:25.
The next stage was the crossfit training, which consisted of 50 bodyweight squats, a 60-yard shuttle, 40 walking lunges with a sandbag, another 60-yard shuttle, 30 burpees, a third 60-yard shuttle, 20 squat presses with a sandbag, a fourth 60-yard shuffle and, finally, 10 push-ups down to a sandbag.
Vest once again dominated the event, finishing in a team-best time of 8:37.
The final leg of the triathlon saw the players embark on a 3.2 mile run.
"We took them off road this year," Coach MacKay explained about the run. "They had more difficult terrain so they had to negotiate different sections of the run, but they all took it on."
Sophomore outfielder Callie Parsons paced the group by finishing the run in 32:55.
The run enabled Parsons to make up time and surpass Vest as the triathlon winner, completing all three stages in 50:20. Vest finished second in 51:24, while junior outfielder Destinee Martinez was third in 55:06.
"Each one of them competed on a different level," Coach Lombardi said of the team. "You have athletes there that had done the triathlon before and were there to win it, while others were there experiencing it for the first time."
Coach MacKay enjoyed seeing the team in a different light.
"We always see them as softball players, and this really lets us see them as athletes," he said. "It gives perspective on just how athletic they are as a group."
As the players ran the course, they were greeted by motivational photos and phrases throughout, and as each player crossed the finish line, "Boomer Sooner" played on a nearby car stereo.
"If they complete something major, like this triathlon, then when they're on the field, they realize that they can do anything," Lombardi said.
"Instead of panicking or being unsure of themselves, they can look back and know that they were already put in a tough situation in the fall, and that should allow them to be calm and relaxed and work through it together as a team."