Jeff Linder has a throwing distance in mind every time he enters the discus ring.
The Greenwood senior’s personal record, or PR, has been 152 feet, 6 inches for some time now. But he has his final track and field season to produce something better.
That’s all the motivation he needs.
“I think it’s going to be pretty easy for me to do better than that. My goal is 170 feet, which I think is reachable,” Linder said. “PRs are like a personal accomplishment.
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“I feels real good to break your own records.”
High school and college track athletes readily acknowledge the PR as one of the forces silently motivating them to strive for improvement.
To PR in a running event is the ultimate contradiction — raising the bar by lowering one’s time.
In field events, it’s achieved by jumping or vaulting higher, or throwing or jumping farther, than ever before.
It’s the new gold standard. Your new gold standard.
“A PR is more than just a personal record. It’s motivation to try to always beat your PR. With track I have PRs in each of my races, but I also have them in the weight room,” said Indiana State University sprinter Katie Wise, a 2012 Indian Creek graduate.
“I’m not always satisfied with just winning a race. Breaking a PR, on the other hand, is always satisfying and a great feeling when racing. Each year I want to get better and can only do that by setting goals to run new PRs.”
The PR’s place in track and field’s vast landscape is secure, the letters frequently inserted into dialogue during a meet or invitational by athletes, coaches and fans.
Examples have been known to range from exuberant (“I just PR-ed in the 400!”) to disappointed (“I was two seconds short of my PR”) to borderline disinterested (“Not sure, but I think I may have just PR-ed in the discus”).
Whatever the case, coaches and those who compete for their program firmly believe in the power of the PR.
More often than not, these two letters are ingrained in an athlete’s mind the same way they are with cross-country runners in the fall and swimmers during the winter sports season.
“PRs are a very important part of our sport because it allows athletes to set goals and they can see progress at each contest. Unlike most sports, you don’t have to win to feel good about your performance,” Whiteland track coach Brandon Bangel said.
“It gives athletes of all abilities a very clear perspective on how they are improving from contest to contest.”
Greenwood girls and boys track coach Blaine Williams is happy for any Woodmen athlete who establishes a PR.
However, in his mind a personal record carries added significance if accomplished on a bigger stage.
“PRs are a good measuring stick for a kid to see how they’ve improved. If you can show improvement from the beginning of the season until the end or from year to year, that’s awesome,” Williams said.
“I don’t talk about PRs a ton, but I talk about them at big meets. I always like it when our best times, throws and jumps are against good competition.”
Not everyone is all in on the dogged pursuit of the PR.
Center Grove boys track coach Eric Moore appreciates the motivation they provide. However, he feels the quest for personal records risks making the sport too individualized.
“The kids worry about them a lot more than we (Center Grove coaches) do. PRs don’t score points in a meet,” said Moore, whose program won a state championship in 2011 and finished third each of the past two seasons.
“We always want improvement, but we also want to win.”
THE PR MACHINE
Local track athletes tell why personal records play a big role in their athletics development:
Blake Albrecht, Franklin College distance runner
“As a long-distance guy you put in a lot of miles, and it’s always your hope that you’re going to get better. PRs validate that you’re finally breaking through that wall and getting better.”
Brandon Benson – Whiteland sprinter
“A PR means that I’ve gotten better as an athlete and that the hard work that I’ve done to get better is starting to pay off.”
Joshua Cox – Franklin sprinter, long jumper
“It’s something I personally always try to attain. It doesn’t get old because it’s a challenge, and I love challenges.”
Tori Long – Center Grove sprinter/hurdler
“A PR is evidence that I’ve succeeded in becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. To me, that is the only way to improve athletically: allowing yourself to push your body to its limits in order to stretch boundaries and improve performance capacity. A PR is an achievement of both growth and potential. After all, if you reached one PR it means there’s another within reach waiting to be conquered.”
Anna Murdock, Franklin College 800-meter runner (Indian Creek, 2011)
“PRs are really important to help you stay focused. If you don’t make your PR it forces you to work even harder, and if you do make it you make a new one. It’s always about achieving more and reaching your full potential.”
Conner Stapleton, Notre Dame hurdler (Center Grove, 2013)
“For me a PR is just another step on the ladder. Every race I run I’m trying to get a PR. It’s an indicator that I’m doing well to reach my goal, which would be an elite time. There is no real satisfaction with PRs personally until I start winning all the time against everybody.”
Nick Stoner, Indiana University sprinter (Center Grove, 2011)
“In sports you are either getting better or getting worse, and with track the times explicitly let you know which direction you are going. PRs specifically let you know that the work you put in during the offseason was worth it. A lot of people see poor times and give up. PRs keep you focused. Usually you see people who break their PRs once will go on to keep breaking it many times throughout the season.”
Jordan Timmons, Ball State 800-, 1,500-meter runner (Center Grove, 2013)
“The PR is one of the many reasons why we run, and the constant desire for a newer, faster one keeps us all on the hunt for more. The motivation inside every runner for a PR is never fulfilled. Once one is achieved, we are already training and working toward the next one.”