It might be a strange sight, the state-bound runners tossing a Frisbee around some 48 hours before the 2013 Class 4 state track meet, but for Glendale’s Spencer Haik and Chris Mooneyham, it’s all a part of getting mentally focused for their biggest races of the spring.
“If you’re going to go out there and get some light running and warm-up in, you might as well get some Frisbee in too,” Glendale coach Jeff Berryessa said. “A lot coaches will do that. It gives you a chance to stretch your legs and accelerate a bit. It gives them something different to do. It takes their mind off things.”
And that’s crucial at this time of year. It’s certain that the field at Dwight T. Reed Stadium in Jefferson City will be filled with talented runners, including Haik, a junior, in the 1600-meter and 800-meter runs, and Mooneyham, a senior, in the 1600 and 3200. So what will set them apart is, as Berryessa said, how they feel.
“Right now it’s not physical. It’s all mental,” he said. “You could have a guy who runs a slower time win because he feels free and released and without pressure. We’re trying to divert pressure off of them.”
And that’s a great thing for Haik, who is the defending state champion in the 1600, having clipped Rock Bridge senior Nathan Keown by more than 2 seconds last spring.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure,” Haik said. “People are looking at me. I use it to motivate me to do better. It helps push me through in practice.”
Mooneyham will compete in the 3200 at state for the second year in a row. He finished 14th in 2012, only his second year of competitive running. Mooneyham came to Glendale after spending his freshman year at Pacific, where he played football and basketball.
“It was my first year ever running, so I thought I’d give it a shot,” said Mooneyham, who has committed to run track and field at the University of Missouri. “My dad talked me into it. It’s helped me a lot.”
Haik and Mooneyham have developed a strong bond as runners, pushing each other to excel in practice and teaming up to finish 3-4 at state cross country in the fall.
“They’re a good mix with each other, they always have been, and they share a lot,” Berryessa said. “There are a lot of expectations for both of them. Who better to talk to about that than the person you’re training with on a long run?”
And who better to toss the Frisbee around with as you prepare to make a run at a state title?
“(Training with Chris) helps a lot, because I know some of my toughest competition is in practice and we push each other on hard days,” Haik said.
Added Mooneyham: “It’s been awesome. … It helps when you’re tired and you don’t really want to go. You’ve got that other person there to help keep your motivation up.”
Once the duo toes the starting line in Jefferson City, though, the teammate thing will go away a bit as they both chase individual honors.
“There are a lot of things that go into winning a big meet like this, and one of them is you have to enjoy it, and Spencer has,” Berryessa said. “He’s enjoyed this kind of set-up, and Chris is the same way.”