Hannah Chen, Emily Chang
For many athletes whose sports are very team-oriented, isolating away from the team during these times have made self-motivation and training alone incredibly difficult. Although technology has brought us a variety of constantly developing methods of maintaining communication with others, the inability to connect with teammates in person has frustrated many athletes.
Brent Nakashima is a junior who runs on the varsity team for cross country and track at Newport High School in Bellevue, Washington. He first picked up cross country in middle school for fitness purposes, where his passion for running developed as he gradually connected with his teammates during practices. Even though he began with some difficulty, he says that “I had so much fun running with my teammates at practice that I wanted to do whatever it took to help my team get better,” thus pushing him and his team to become one of the strongest middle schools in the area.
Throughout his running career, Brent has acquired a number of individual and team achievements. In 2019, Newport Boys XC scored a 2nd-place podium finish at the KingCo 4A League Championships, qualifying for state as a team. Additionally, Brent is a two-time individual qualifier for the WIAA State XC championships. After such a successful junior XC season, Brent was looking forward to making personal progress on the track this spring. However, due to COVID-19, the track season has been cancelled, creating a plethora of difficulties and frustrations for athletes such as Brent.
One of the more prominent issues that have arisen since for Brent is running without teammates or coaches. “Running with my team is a huge part of getting better in cross country because all 7 people are important to a strong team and running by myself is definitely a big change,” Brent says, adding that this change brought about various challenges, particularly in staying motivated.
He has dealt with this by keeping his goals of qualifying for nationals in focus, a dream his team has been looking forward to for four years, and reminding himself by watching races. Additionally, Brent has also adopted doing “time trials every Wednesday just to get close to how a race might be” with his teammates, keeping him accountable when they are not able to run together. He hopes that with continued speed training, Newport has a chance for a first-place podium finish at the state meet this fall.
While Brent has not suffered from any major physical injuries, he has been taking the opportunity to “figure out the mental side of running,” particularly when he is unable to perform to the best of his ability. Sports are as much of a mental battle as they are a physical one, and a doubtful mindset can restrict athletic performance, undermining even the most rigorous training regimen. Particularly for longer distances like the 5K in which pacing and stamina is crucial for a strong race, Brent and other runners sometimes struggle with wondering if they started “out too hard and those negative thoughts and doubt surface and cause my body to kind of shut down. I [begin to] go so much slower than I know I’m capable of.” Brent’s general advice for runners and other athletes is that “a positive mindset and determination is how you break through and run your best.”
Brent has treated himself by “baking really good chocolate chip cookies for the first time ever” in his quarantine kitchen.
He concluded our interview with general advice for athletes out there:
Keep practicing or exercising during this time because it will pay off once the season resumes!
We hope that we will maintain their fitness even as we are in isolation, and send our best wishes to all the passionate individuals and teams to reach their goals!