Winter break is a time for relaxation, gifts, and a cornucopia of home cooked meals for most students.
It means something different for Saluki athletes.
Collegiate athletes are expected to maintain both academic and athletic responsibilities while they are in season. It is common for an athlete to have tests, writing assignments and group projects due the same week of an important conference away game.
These responsibilities extend through breaks and often take precedence over free time.
Senior swimmer Melissa Larocque said her winter break was shortened because the break falls on a crucial part of the swim team’s schedule.
Larocque, a Canada native, said she had only two weeks to visit her family before she returned to training camp Jan. 2.
She said her practice workload increased
during her time off. “It was more intense than a regular week,” he
said. “We swam doubles every day and also did either weights or dryland (workouts). We were training about five hours a day.”
She said her coaches wanted her to keep a healthy diet and receive adequate rest so she could be ready for a tough slate of winter break practices because more significant meets are on the schedule.
With her family in another country, Larocque said breaks are the only time she gets to visit them. However, she said she realizes she can’t neglect her life’s athletic component.
“Winter break is an important time for me because I get to go home and spend time with family and friends, which I do not get to do all of Fall semester,” she said. “It is also a really important training period that prepares us for our conference championships in February.”
Junior tennis player Anita Lee said she played tennis everyday during her break.
“There’s no time off,” she said. “Someone is always training harder than you to become better than you.”
While back home in Las Vegas, Lee said her personal coach implemented a long-distance running routine to help Lee maintain her physical fitness.
“Coach (Nothwehr) told us to stay fit when we left for home and she reminded us to have good time,” she said. “She also told us to take care of any injuries we may have and not to come back to Carbondale injured.”
Lee said she looks forward to going home when she gets a chance because she has teammates who only get to go home once a year.
“There are girls on the team like Mel (Delsart), Natasha (Tomishima) and Ana (Simons) who are from different countries that are kind of far away,” she said. “Winter break is an opportunity for them to go home, but sometimes it isn’t enough time.”
Lee said she learned how valuable an education really is during break, and she should take it more seriously.
“You don’t really realize how important college is until you leave,” she said. “I have friends back home who were constantly reminding me of the opportunities I have here. There is a lot of value in a good college education.”
Sophomore distance runner Lacey Gibson said she used her break as a chance to better explore career options after college.
“I spent most of my time back in Kansas visiting family,” she said. “When I wasn’t doing that, I was job shadowing at local doctor’s offices and with family pediatricians. I’m still not sure what I want to do career-wise, but I do want to go to medical school after graduation.”
Gibson said most distance runners weren’t required to run for two weeks of winter break because it wasn’t enough time to adversely affect them.