3100 Cullen Blvd.
Houston, TX 77204-6742
I was starting to get that feeling. The same feeling I hated but at the same time I loved. It all starts as soon as the gun is fired. I try to stay with the front pack, I keep my gaze a few feet ahead of me so I won’t trip or get bumped. The sun is burning my face and the sweat is running down my face making my eyes itch. My legs feel like bricks and I can’t breathe but I can’t stop. There is always something that keeps me going; I can hear my friends cheering for me, my coach yelling out my time but most important I can hear my parents. As I come out of the woods I can see my mom and dad yelling for me and that gives me the strength I need to go faster. Finally I can see the banners at the finish line. My arms are heavy and I can’t pick up my legs anymore but somehow I always have the power to finish strong. Sometimes I think, “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this to my body?” but as soon as I cross the finish line all my questions are answered. Running is everything to me; I love the butterflies in my stomach before a race, the fear of loosing but above all I love the feeling of competing and winning. There is not a better feeling in the world than to stand in the first place podium and receive a first place medal.
My first experience as a freshman here at the University of Houston was walking into the Athletics/Alumni Center. I am a member of the cross country and track teams, so the facility is almost like my home. I spent most of my time there, from visiting the computer lab to do homework, to getting treatment form the trainers, to running on the outside track during practice.
As a competitive sport, cross-country running began in England with a game called “hare and hounds” or “the paper chase” in the early 19th century. In important competition the game became a cross-country race along a course laid out in advance over open country. In 1887, the National Cross Country Association was founded. Also in 1880m cross-country running was introduced at Harvard as an autumn training event for track and field distance runners. Although most cross-country competitors also run distance events in track and field, the two are separate sports. The cross-country season is during the fall and events are run through open country, often over rather rude hills like golf courses, parks and a few are held on college campuses, not on roads or tracks. Team competition is very important in cross-country. Teams are made up of five to nine runners and the order of finish is determined by adding up the places in which team members finish. The team with the lowest score wins.
The Alumni Center provides us, the athletes, with the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), which is located on the second floor of the Athletics/Alumni Center. The staff includes two academic coordinators, three counselors, and a learning specialist who assist over 350 UH student-athletes in 16 sports. Open from 8:00am-9:00pm weekdays and 6:00pm-10:00pm on Sundays, ACE includes a 22-station computer lab with IBM and Macintosh computers. It also contains a career preparation group room, two 50-person classrooms, five six-person small group study rooms and 16 one-on-one individual tutoring areas. Because it is very important to the athletic department that we pass with high GPAs, we are provided with free tutors. We can have a tutor for any of our classes as long as we don’t miss any appointments.
Inside the lab, there are all types of people. There are athletes, coaches, doctors, trainers, counselors, sometimes TV reporters, employees, and non-athlete students that have classes on the second floor. It is very easy to tell from students and student-athletes because only students wear nice clothes like jeans, nice blouses or shirts, jackets, high-heels or boots, their hair is fixed, etc… inside the facility. Athletes usually wear something comfortable like pants, sweats, shorts, t-shirts, tennis shoes, no make-up , hair up because they are not there to take classes but to practice or get treatment. There is no need to get all dressed up when you are going to end up al sweaty. We are all used to seeing each other in work out clothes, the only time we all get dressed up is if we go out to eat, a party or a banquet.
It also very interesting to hear the conversations that go on inside the athletic facility. Where in most classrooms you hear things like, “Oh my God, did you hear about Jessica and Raul? I heard Raul broke up with her because she was cheating on him,” inside the facility you hear stuff like, “Did you know that Janay ran a 4:58 mile?” or “Come on guys, we have to practice really hard this week so we can do well at the Conference meet.” There is also a lot of yelling of coaches to athletes, “What are you doing? You know you can run faster than that.”
Perhaps the most “state of art” area in the building is the Sports Medicine Center, which most of us call “the trainer.” We go there for treatment, rehabilitation, preventive measures and medical attention from team doctors. The Athletics Department has a legal obligation to ensure health care to all student-athletes. “The trainer” is located adjacent to both the Cougar weight room and locker room facilities. The Sports Medicine room includes an examination room, 12 treatment and taping tables and a rehabilitation area, which features stationary bikes and fixed-resistance machinery. There is also a hydrotherapy room, a sauna, whirlpools, a spa and a Swimex- a pool in which athletes swim or run against a current for rehabilitation purposes.
The trainer is also kind of our little “hang out place.” Even thought they are very strict there, we all have a great relationship with the trainers so they let us stay even if we are not getting treatment. Sometimes it is not a very pleasant sight because all you see is injured athletes who are getting painful treatments and all you hear is painful moans, cries, and nervous laughs because it hurts so much. Every time I go there to get treatment, I am ready for pain. Being a runner involves getting hurt, or at least being sore most of the time. Overdose symptoms such as soreness, or injuries are cause by too much shock or jarring. Lack of flexibility is probably the biggest cause of Achilles’tendonitis and is a major factor in plantar fascitis and shin splints. I have always suffered from shin splints so I need to go to the trainers almost everyday so they can massage my shins. But don’t think because I say massage it, is a good thing, on the contrary they rub my shin up and down and it hurts really badly. Shin massages are among the most painful massages there are. It hurts me to touch my shin so just imagine in how much pain I am when they are putting pressure on them as hard as they can. What I do is get a clean towel and I bite it to keep me from screaming when I can’t take the pain anymore. Even tough it hurts I keep going back because it helps me run better. It reduces the pain in my shins when I run. I would rather be in pain for about 10 minutes than run in pain for about one hour, so it is worth it. They also give me deep tissue and/or soft tissue massages when I have sore muscles, they stretch me out, etc…
Nobody wants to go there for treatment everyday, especially because of the smell. They have all these kinds of lotions like “Ice-Hot” and “Biofreeze” that have a strong odor and if you smell them for a long time you get a headache. But we all keep going there regardless of all the bad smells and sounds because it gives us time to talk while we are getting treatment. We are all so busy with our lives that we try to take advantage of moments like these to talk about our personal life.
The Athletic Facility has a strength and conditioning room, or “weight room, “which provides Cougar student-athletes the opportunity to become faster, stronger, and more flexible. It is a big room, but there are so many machines in there that it makes it look small. Covering 16,500 square feet, the weight room contains the most modern and innovative weight training and conditioning equipment in the world. Each sport has a scheduled time to use the weight room. We always have fun when we are working out. It doesn’t even feel like we are doing a work out, probably because we have a stereo system that is tuned to the latest hits. The only thing I hate about going to the weight room is the unpleasant smell of sweat, the sour, rotten, stinky smell of shoes and feet- all of these smells combined to make the weight room smell like a decomposing body.
In front of the weight room is the Field House, which houses the indoor track. The University of Houston is one of the few universities that has one of these. For this reason, most of Houston ’s indoor track meets are held in our athletic facility. It is very convenient for us because we get to practice there everyday, instead of going somewhere else like other teams. Also, it keeps us from missing class because the meets are here on campus. We can just arrive in time to warm-up and run for our event instead of missing the whole day going somewhere else to compete. The Field House can also be used as a football field, volleyball, and basketball courts depending on the season. We also have an outdoor track for the outdoor season. Outside you will also find one of the top college baseball stadiums in the country, which is a scaled down versions of a major league park.
One of my favorite places to visit in the facility is the Hall of Fame. As soon as you walk through the main doors you can’t miss the stunning Hall of Fame to the right. All of the athletes that made history here at the University of Houston are displayed there, like Carl Lewis and our own coach Leroy Burrell, who are both Olympic medallists. There are pictures, medals, and trophies lining the walls as well as old uniforms, game balls, and other sports memorabilia. It is an amazing feeling to walk around looking at so many old, but unforgettable moments
I have been running since I was little. I ran my first race when I was 6 years old and I won in my age category, it was a wonderful experience. People used to always get on my parents for pushing me so hard when I was still a little girl. They said that I wasn’t suppose to be out there everyday practicing that instead I should be playing with dolls at home or with girls my age. I didn’t have a normal childhood like every girl because I had to practice everyday sometimes twice a day. I would just go to school, eat, and go to practice, then do homework and back to sleep because I was so tired. But I don’t regret it, it made responsible, and learned to love my sport. It helped me to become the person that I am today.
Besides I don’t think I could live without running, even I f I didn’t run for the school I would still run on my own. But I love to be in a team because there you find people that love to run. We all share the same interest but most important we all love to run. An athlete has to love their sport in order to do all the things we are asked to do. And since we see each other everyday your team becomes like your family.
The Athletics and Alumni Center is by far one of the most equipped, interesting and fun places to hang out, not only for the athletes, but for all cougar sports fans. We try to make ourselves as comfortable as we can, considering that we spend the majority of our time there. If you haven’t visited the Alumni Center yet, you are missing out on a great experience. It is open to everyone and should be enjoyed by all.