By Jac St. Jean
On most days, deep in the field house, a small group works diligently at perfecting its craft. Every muscle, every movement and every breath matters. When the athletes go out to compete individually, they are alone. The only support they possess is their own self-esteem and words of encouragement shouted by their teammates. The only competition they truly have is within.
These people are throwers on the track and field team, collectively known as the Bomb Squad. Not only does the name refer to the physical explosiveness of throwing in track and field, but it is also a title that every athlete in the group interprets differently.
Senior and athletic training major Caitlin Bacon sees the nickname of her team as one that brings them together.
“I think ‘Bomb Squad’ has a different meaning to each person, but we throw bombs,” senior and Athletic Training major Caitlin Bacon said.
“Our movements are explosive, it’s not a slow sport. You need that explosive energy to get through the circle, to get down the runway, that’s where the ‘bomb’ comes in. But we’re a squad, we’re a family. We love each other like we are brothers and sisters, or best friends, cousins, whatever.”
As the sole senior of the Bomb Squad, Bacon noted that one of her favorite parts of her athletic career was the experience of seeing those below her develop into better versions of themselves.
“It’s been a crazy journey,” Bacon explained. “I love seeing as I get older the underclassmen grow and strive, especially this year… we have a handful of juniors and then a lot of sophomores and first-years, so I love seeing them improve and get better. I mean myself, over the past four years I’ve hit a few goals that I’ve had for myself and I’m proud of all the things that I’ve done, especially with the COVID year. We had a few setbacks in our season, but to come out on the other side of that and now be competing is really cool.”
Within the past two years, Bacon has taken sophomore Sierra Bond under her wing, and finally in this year, Bond has been given the Springfield College Athletics experience that she’s due.
“I’m not gonna lie, the first year was kind of rough,” Bond expressed. “Having to stop [training] because there were too many cases, and then come back into training, and then stop again. I think that was difficult for my first year, especially coming into college, but I think this year was definitely a redemption year for me. Coming in full force, having high expectations for myself, and [now] trying to hit my goals I’ve set for myself coming into college.”
Just now getting into the swing of things, Bond is fully immersed in the tight-knit group of throwers, and believes that their connection as a team is what makes them so successful.
“My experience with my teammates, I feel like we’re a very close team,” Bond emphasized.
Every person on the team throws in a combination of the four different throwing events (hammer throw, javelin, shot put, and discus). Despite their preferences in what they throw, they all agree on the mutual support of each other.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them,” Bond continued, “and we’re all really supportive of each other. Even though we all may throw different implements, and not understand what it takes to throw certain things, like I don’t throw hammer so I don’t quite understand it as well as Bacon, but I still support her.”
“She’s my hype girl,” Bacon responded.
Every week before competition, members of the Bomb Squad create cue phrases during practice, which are little critiques and reminders that each athlete is trying to remember to better improve their performance. On top of sharing these cues with each other, they also set multiple short term goals throughout their year-long training season to get to their eventual long-term goals.
“We share those with each other too,” Bacon explained, “So if I know what Sierra wants to work on at a practice, or even at a meet, I can remind her of those things, or just yell them to her while she’s throwing… We really know what each other are working on so we can support them in any way possible.”
Throwers on the track team are immensely physical athletes. While all of the throws are released from the upper limbs, throwers get their power from their legs, their core, as well as their technique.
“It’s a big lower body-dominant sport,” Bacon added.
“Everyone thinks like, ‘Oh you’re throwers you must be upper body, super strong,’ but a lot of it comes from the legs. So we tell each other, ‘Hips!’”
“A lot of people think javelin is throwing it like a baseball, when it’s really not,” Bond included.
Frequent visits to the varsity weight room and full body workouts are imperative for a thrower’s success. Bond and Bacon praise their strength and conditioning coaches, especially graduate assistant coach Tori Hunt, for their commitment to their strenuous training.
Hunt began as a graduate student this past fall in the strength and conditioning program. As a former softball player, Hunt is now gaining a new perspective on a sport unfamiliar to her.
“Obviously they’re a sport where they’re really dependent on power production,” Hunt uttered.
“We lift a lot of heavy weight. That’s basically the core of their program; a lot of big lifts so they have a lot of volume, a lot of heavy weight.”
The Bomb Squad begins their pre-season training lifting four days a week, and only reduces to three times a week when their season begins. The outdoor season only began at the beginning of April. For over half of the calendar year, the Bomb Squad has worked tirelessly to get outside and throw some “bombs”.
“It’s definitely a grind,” Hunt stressed. “Being a student athlete on any team here… it’s a grind. It’s a lot on them, and at that point you’re working hard to be able to do well in the spring… so they have to understand why what they’re doing now is going to help them in the future.”
Hunt continued, “[The Bomb Squad] never complain[s]. They just come in and lift… sometimes I see them picking up stuff that’s not even theirs. They’re a great group of kids, I don’t know how else to say it.”
In their most recent competition, Bond and Bacon helped the women’s track team to a fourth place finish. While they know it may not have been their best meet, they are optimistic and determined to improve upon their most recent performance together.
“Definitely don’t underestimate us,” Bond warned, “We are hard workers, and when it’s crunch time, we do show up.”
The Bomb Squad returns to action next Saturday, April 23, at the Trinity College Invitational in Hartford, Conn.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics