Track and field hopes to peak at outdoor Heps

| 5/7/15 6:01pm

For the men’s and women’s track and field teams, months of training and preparation will culminate in two days of competition this weekend when the teams travel to the University of Pennsylvania to compete in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. For both teams Heps is the most important meet of the spring season, after the NCAA Regional Championships.

The women enter this year as the defending runner-up from last year’s Heps, while the men will look to improve on their fifth-place showing at last year’s Heps.

“I expect us to be in the top four, which is where we were indoors,” women’s head coach Sandy Ford-Centonze said. “I think we’re in just as good of a shape, if not better, than we were during the winter.”

The teams will be traveling with a total of 72 athletes, evenly split between the men’s and women’s teams. Men’s head coach and track and field director Barry Harwick ’77 said that the Ivy League mandates this quota of 72 athletes.

“We have at least one athlete in every event,” Harwick said. “We want to score in as many events as possible, and I’m pretty confident that we have many athletes who can do that.”

The women’s team will look to their strong distance, jump and sprint squads to lead the way. Dana Giordano ’16 returns as the defending champion in the 1,500-meter from last spring, as well as the defending champion in the mile and 3,000-meter from the indoor Heptagonal Championships. Kaitlin Whitehorn ’16 returns as the defending champion in the high jump.

The women’s team will also look to Jennifer Meech ’16, who should prove to be a factor in the 200-meter and 400-meter sprints, as well as Molly Shapiro ’16 in the triple jump and Allison Frantz ’18 in the heptathlon. The 4x100m quartet of Whitehorn, Meech, Anna Kikut ’16 and Marissa Evans ’18, as well as the 4x800-meter team of Bridget O’Neill ’18, Elizabeth Markowitz ’16, Bridget Flynn ’18 and Meghan Grela ’17, should be in contention for strong finishes this weekend.

On the men’s side, Curtis King ’16 in the 10,000 meters and Jacob Shippee ’16 in the javelin will be strong contenders. The men’s team will also look to Edward Wagner ’16 in the 400-meter hurdles and Nico Robinson ’17 in the decathlon for strong finishes in their respective events.

“If I can stay near the front of the race in contact with the leaders, then I should be in the driver’s seat,” King said about the 10000-meter race. “I think there are few guys who can drop a 30-second 200 [meters], 9,800 meters into a race.”

Competing in peak condition in such an important event requires extensive planning and preparation. Both the athletes and coaches noted the intense training and workouts in the weeks leading up to this weekend. This week, the athletes have eased back on the intensity to really sharpen up.

“It took me a month to get back into the form I had indoors, and feeling the sharpness return is huge,” King said. “We did some of the same indicator workouts that Joey [Chapin ’16] and I did indoors with some added company, which means the whole team is in great shape.”

Ford-Centonze said she encouraged the athletes to make the most of this relaxed week of training.

“I tell my athletes to take advantage of this, because this is the only week where I go to them and ask them what they want to do,” she said. “We just need to trust their bodies and trust that they’ve done the right things.”

From the coaching staff’s perspective, preparing for Heps also required extensive logistical preparation.

“Organizing the logistics beforehand takes away one element of stress,” Harwick said. “We want our athletes to be able to focus on competition rather than worrying about all of those details.”

The team will be departing campus at 8:15 a.m. on Friday, hoping to arrive in Philadelphia by 4:30 p.m. to do a shakeout practice, Ford-Centonze said. During competition on Saturday and Sunday, the athletes will be spread out between the track, the throwing area and the hotel, where the athletes will be resting and recuperating before they compete.

“This isn’t like other sports, where they can all go to the field or the court together and then get dinner together. That’s not how track and field works,” Ford-Centonze said. “If the other team sports could see what our schedule looked like, I think they’d be surprised.”

Beyond the logistics of the meet, however, the team will look to arrive in Philadelphia relaxed and ready to compete.

“We all want it so badly,” King said. “In cross country, in track invites online, we’re always looking for the Ivy jerseys. Now they’re all in one place.”

Both Harwick and Ford-Centonze emphasized that they will tell their athletes to be confident in the months of training and preparation they have put in.

“The one thing I always try to tell them is to trust what you’ve been doing and trust the workouts. But more importantly, to trust yourselves,” Ford-Centonze said.

Heps will begin on Saturday at 11 a.m. and conclude late that evening following the women’s 10,000 meters at 9 p.m. The second day will begin at 10 a.m. and finish by 5 p.m.