We get an inside look at a track and field athlete as she goes about her day.
The comings and goings any U-M student are a constant bustle from one activity to the next, whether it be classes, labs, study groups, or jobs. Add to that the time student-athletes devote to practice and competition, and each day becomes a whirlwind we mere mortals can only imagine.
As one of more than 900 student-athletes who attend U-M, Gina Sereno balances the rigors of her mechanical engineering studies with her track and field work. But it paid off for the native of Madison, Wis., who competes in long-distance events. Not only did U-M share the 2016 Big Ten Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship with Minnesota, but Sereno earned Track Athlete of the Championships from the Big Ten.
To illustrate a typical, nonstop day—in this case, Tuesday, April 12, 2016—Michigan Alumnus shadowed then-junior Sereno as she went about her business.
Tuesday mornings usually start with a weightlifting session from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. But on this particular day, Sereno catches a break: due to an upcoming meet, the coach has canceled the session. Instead, Sereno bikes from her home near South Campus to Yost Ice Arena.
Sereno greets fellow runner Aaron Baumgarten at Yost as they pick up food at the “grab and go,” part of the sports nutrition group. Most sports have healthy provisions available in their own facilities as well.
Sereno spends most of her weekdays on North Campus, although she has two classes on Central Campus this semester.
With time to kill before her first class, Sereno settles in at the Duderstadt Center with her engineering homework. In addition to two engineering classes this semester, she has courses in linguistics and the history of Scotland.
She picks up her fluid dynamics exam and is shocked when she sees her grade. All is resolved after speaking with Professor Xiaogan Liang—it turns out a page was missing. To maintain her classwork during the track and field season, Sereno needs to get ahead on all of her assignments, coordinating with professors and with classmates if she’s involved in a group project. The most difficult to coordinate are exams, which she either takes early or while on the road with a proctor.
Sereno meets with classmates Christopher Yates, Ian Raber, and Julia Korde in her mechanical engineering lab. They test a modified car in a wind tunnel to approximate the drag and lift a car would experience on a highway and variations in speed.
While many students head home in the late afternoon to take it easy, Sereno has only half an hour to travel from North Campus to South Campus. So it’s back on the bus to C.C. Little, where she quickly grabs her bike and heads to the Indoor Track Building.
Her two-hour practice starts in the locker room, where she changes and then joins teammates for a warm-up (a two-mile run around campus followed by stretching, agility, and light strides) before the workout begins. The team alternates days when members work out with days when they have intermediate runs of eight or 10 miles. She refers to the latter days as “pretty relaxed.” According to NCAA rules, student-athletes can spend up to 20 hours each week while in season; that includes both practice and strength and conditioning.
While she sometimes dines at home with her roommates, also U-M student-athletes, Sereno is alone tonight. Following a quick shower, she makes dinner before heading out again to study, either at the Ross Academic Center or one of the libraries on Central Campus. Then it’s time for some wellearned rest—before starting the routine again tomorrow.
Photos by Leisa Thompson Photography