Name: Kathleen Elizabeth Merchant (Kath)
Events: Shot Put, Discus, Javelin, Pole Vault, 4×200 / 200, Triple Jump
PRs: Shot: 41’4”
The others aren’t terribly great, so I’ll spare you!
When did you start competing in track and field?
At Plainfield, we can start track as early as fifth grade, so following my brother, I decided to try it out, and started by dual sporting with lacrosse. Then in sixth grade, I switched over to track permanently, and have been there ever since to outdoor in 5th-8th and indoor and outdoor track from 9th-12th.
What is your favorite track and field event? What are your personal bests?
My favorite is javelin, since its a cross between running, throwing, and bounding. The 200, discus, and triple jump are my close seconds. My PR in 9th grade was around 108′, then 128′ sophomore year, and I finished my junior year at the heptathlon in Nashua three weeks after the track season had ended. It was on the second day after five events that I threw my 137’7” PR. I was so close to passing out, I didn’t even realize it was a good throw, let alone a PR.
Describe your favorite competition memory:
I think it was Meet of Champions my junior year when it was a a ninety plus degree day, and everyone had to run on a black track. Predicting the heat, one of our coaches had brought a family-reunion size cooler filled with ice to the meet, which none of us had touched. After finishing my events, I decided to try and chill in tent city. A couple of my teammates came over talking about one of our distance runners in a coming race, so I decided to go watch. After the runner’s second lap, me and another teammate got to talking about how hot the turf inside track was, and how the distance runners looked like they were nearly dying on the track. We brought over the cooler and started filling bags with ice. After one team asked us for some, we just started offering ice to every runner that came off the track. I think we prevented a lot of burnt feet and passing out that day.
This memory is also tied to another meet that usually went on for hours, longer than most of our meets. Towards the end of the meet, everyone is usually tired, and most of the spectators and nearby teams left. Anyone who was left was in the stands by the finish line, everyone except our team that is. In our exhaustion, half our team decided to run from one side of the track to the other, going back and forth as our distance runners ran lap after lap in the race. When we didn’t have anyone running, we just sat on the far side of the track, where there were no bleachers or spectators, and we cheered for every racer who went by. This is another one of my favorite memories, not because my teammates showed good sportsmanship, but because every runner who went by did a different pose. Some pretended to be superman, some laughed, and others actually sped up, even if they were near the back of the pack. To me, their attitudes define track. They were exhausted, and were just ready to go home, and so were we, but both our team and theirs’ decided to just have fun with the race and finish strong.
If you could do any event in track and field, which one would it be and why?
If I could do any event in track and field, it would be the 4×200, because I’m a thrower. I don’t get a lot of chances to run, especially in outdoor when I have three throwing events and only one open spot. Not to mention, the 4×200 is only an outdoor event at one meet. That said, I don’t think I have the acceleration for a 100, and honestly just suck at finding the balance between pacing and sprinting in the 400, so the 200 makes sense. Since I’ve always been a thrower, I also have this terrible fear of the track, check in, and sometimes the runners. So having a team that can not only shield me from that, but also make up for any lost time I will invariably cause is enormously uplifting.
Describe your favorite workout:
The twelve days of GS (general strength) that my team does every year the practice before Christmas. To the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” it starts with one clap push up, two v-ups, three military push-ups, four jumping squats, five supermen, 6 lunges, 7 leg raises, 8 russian twists, 9 wide push-ups, 10 mountain climbers, 11 in-and-outs, and 12 burpees. It’s a really fun way to head into Christmas the next day, and I’m sure my parents loved how none of their kids woke them up early because they couldn’t move the next day.
How does your coach motivate you?
My head coach motivates me by saying “8-12 reps.” It’s pretty simple, but since there’s always the option of doing only 8 reps, I end up doing twelve. I think I might be a little over dramatic that way, but that, along with the general pressure of my peers looking to me as a captain this year, is motivation enough. In throwing, my coach (Beth) motivates me by making everyone do push-ups every time we miss the mat when we throw indoors, or push-ups when the circle is empty during practice, or push-ups if I make the same mistake multiple times. Let’s just say there’s a reason my arms are so strong. : )
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
If I could go anywhere, it would be Japan. It’s not track related, I just think it is a cool country with some gorgeous mountains. Plus, Japanese is a really interesting language. Having studied samurai for a thesis paper in one of my classes, seeing the place I was writing about would add some serious credibility to it.
What is your go-to pre-meet meal?
Ooh, this is a tough one. I don’t eat the same thing consistently, but the night before a meet, pasta is fantastic. If it’s right before a meet, I tend to have something that I can eat quickly, like more pasta or granola bars or such, since I am nearly always in a rush.
Do you have a favorite pre-race song?
A lot of people would say they like pump up songs like “300 Violin Orchestra” or “Shipping Up to Boston” before a meet, which is great, except for throwers. Our days are so long and spread out, that pump up music doesn’t quite last long enough to work, at least in my mind. My throws coach would entirely disagree with me here, and if she reads this, I’m probably going to be doing push-ups, but during this past indoor season, I listened to “Tank!” by The Seatbelts, which is jazz. The season before that I listened to The Cat Empire’s “Brighter Than Gold”, and in the season before that it was always Fall Out Boy’s “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”, which I found courtesy of buddies in band.
What motivates you most to do well?
Something that always seems to happen, be it at States, Meet of Champs, or New England’s, is that someone will throw farther than me, even when I’m having a pretty good day. I have stressed my coach out to no end on this, but whenever it happens, I always end up throwing a PR or throw that’s only a few inches further than the person ahead of me. I’ve almost given my parents and coaches heart attacks because I “save my best” for my last throw of prelims or finals. I think that having someone throwing just over what I am is my best motivation, because it encourages me to add that little bit of power, that I never seem to have otherwise, to the end of my throw.
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
In track, I would avoid high jump and pole vault, because not failing means the event doesn’t end, and that would be exhausting. If I couldn’t fail, I would probably draw all of the pictures, caricatures, and scenes I could, because currently they never turn out quite right.
What is the best advice or quote ever given to you?
“Just throw it.” – Kevin Lozeau
I should add, Lozeau is my head coach and a distance runner, and on meets where our Throws coach isn’t able to be there, he always ends up at the throwing events, especially at New Englands, which we haven’t had much success in getting running teams to. So, being a distance runner, he gives the best advice he can, which means I have no chance to overthink the form that has become muscle memory to me. It’s really relaxing.
If you go to college, do you plan to compete in track and field? And where?
I do plan on going to college, and of course I’ll compete in track and field! The whole reason I do it now, despite the rather large time commitment, is because it’s fun. I know college is going to be different than high school, and more stressful, so keeping track in my day will keep at least one part of my life consistent and help with the stress of it all. That said, as of writing this I haven’t quite decided where I want to go, but all my schools have a track team to some degree, and to me it isn’t the division of the team that matters so much as the personality of the team.
What is your favorite thing about track and field?
My favorite thing about track and field is doing hills. Everyone always seems to complain about them, but I think everyone dying a bit physically and on the inside together is really bonding. That ties into why track is my favorite sport actually, because everyone, no matter what physical abilities they have, can compete, socialize and improve as a group. It’s just a really supportive atmosphere, even between teams. I always like to preface my runs in races with, ‘so, anybody else here a thrower?’ because it always gets a laugh out of even the most nervous people around me, and starts a conversation that really shows how quickly complete strangers can come together. Everyone is just so willing to add to a positive social climate that makes it a joy to compete in.
What is your favorite track facility?
If there’s one thing I like, its a red track. Most schools seem to agree, which is quite lovely when the temperature is ninety degrees, because black tracks absorb every last bit of heat and are excruciatingly hot sometimes. That said, I think my favorite facility is at Londonderry, because the layout is very spectator friendly, and tent city is about the size of a soccer field, and right next to shot put and discus, which never happens. The only down side from my perspective is the trot across the field to triple jump and javelin, but in the grand scheme of things, its a fair trade. Plus, while track isn’t about winning and isn’t about medals, I just have to say that one of the best parts of Londonderry’s meets is their awarding of bears to the first place winners. It’s a nice change to those people who win meets often, since they are likely running out of room on their walls to put plaques.