Men's and women's track and field head to Heps this weekend

by Mark Cui | 5/5/17 12:30am

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by Hollye Swinehart / The Dartmouth

When men’s track and field head coach Barry Harwick and women’s track and field head coach Sandy Ford-Centonze walked into Leverone Field House on Monday, Feb. 27 — the day after the 2017 Indoor Heptagonal Championships — they had to walk past a countdown clock. That day, the clock read “69,” numbering the days until the 2017 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships. There’s no way for athletes and coaches to avoid seeing that clock as they walk in the building, and on Saturday, it will read zero.

“It’s the most exciting meet of the schedule, and it’s one of the most exciting track meets in the country,” Harwick said. “Every place really matters. Even if someone doesn’t have a chance to win an event, getting in sixth place can still contribute a point to the team score.”

Each team is permitted to send up to 32 participants to compete in the 21 events, according to both head coaches. This year’s event will take place at Yale University and will be available by broadcast live on the Ivy League Digital Network and FloTrack.

In recent years, the men’s team has not fared well at Outdoor Heps. The Big Green has not finished above fifth place since 2008 and has finished at exactly fifth the past three seasons.

However, the men have had great success at Indoor Heps, finishing in third the past two seasons. The previous Indoor Heps in February required a complete team scoring effort. Although no single team member won an event, everyone contributed to score enough points to secure third place. The performance has given the team confidence going into Outdoor Heps.

“I think we surprised not ourselves, but a lot of other people,” Harwick said. “The performance kind of got us into the spring season in a good state of mind. The takeaway from that was that although the competition for the meet is very intense, we can certainly score a lot of points in the championship.”

The women’s team, on the other hand, has fared well in recent years at the annual spring event. Since the 2012 season, the women’s team has finished within the top four twice. In 2012, the team finished in fourth, while in the 2014 season, the team claimed second place. At this season’s Indoor Heps, the team finished in first in three separate events but placed sixth overall.

In the current outdoor season, both teams appear to be peaking at the right time. In the scored meets of the season, the men’s team finished in first out of 14 teams at the Bob Davidson Spring Kick-Off, took first out of seven teams at the University of Massachusetts Pre-Conference Meet and scored higher than University of Massachusetts, Lowell, University of Vermont and University of Hartford in a home meet.

Some standouts to look out for on the men’s team are Parker Johnson ’19 and Adam Couitt ’18, according to Ford-Centonze. Johnson has greatly improved in the hurdles, while Couitt has fought back from ankle issues last year to make Heps. After a strong start to the season, Myles Holt ’20 pulled his hamstring during the Indoor Heps but looks to bounce back in the outdoor Heps.

The women’s team has also had a solid record in the outdoor season. It finished seventh out of 16 teams at the Bob Davidson Spring Kick-Off, secured third out of seven teams in the UMass Pre-Conference Meet and came out on top over UMass Lowell, Vermont and Hartford in a home meet.

“I think the team has been doing very well this season,” Nicole DeBlasio ’19 said. “We’re all ready to peak at the right time. It’s been a slow progression to Heps, which is what you want. I think Dartmouth is going to do some big things at Heps.”

Some athletes have already stood out during the outdoor season. Cha’Mia Rothwell ’20, who rested last week, has already broken several Dartmouth records. Alexandra Collins ’19 has also shown marked improvement in the hammer throw despite injuries last season.

Both teams are looking forward to the event.

“Heps is the most exciting meet I’ve ever been to,” DeBlasio said. “It’s just such a crazy atmosphere, and you want to do better. You see everyone PR-ing and everyone doing very well. Anything can happen at Heps, and I really do believe it.”

At a team meeting on Tuesday, Harwick gave his team final words of advice.

“The most important thing you can do leading up to it is to be as well-rested and as fresh and healthy as you can be,” Harwick said.

He further noted that two goals for the event were to focus on what you can control and to maintain a positive attitude.

After finishing sixth at Indoor Heps despite three individuals winning championships, the women’s team is focusing on high finishes across the board.

“Two goals are to make sure that they get to that final round and to have more people scoring in the upper portion of the scores rather than the bottom half,” Ford-Centonze said. “We need every point we can get, but those top-three finishes are especially beneficial to the team score. Every team member needs to contribute.”

At Heps, athletes also need to be prepared for the unexpected.

“One thing that [Ford-Centonze] always mentions is that anything can happen in a race,” Deblasio said. “[In one race], a girl ran out of her lane and got disqualified, which really shows that anything really can happen. You always have to keep running and pushing to beat yourself and your time.” Overall, both teams feel confident ahead of the weekend.

“This meet tends to bring out the best in everybody,” Ford-Centonze said. “We have a lot of kids who are very capable of [finishing on the podium]. Trust yourself, trust your training and just go out and do what you know how to do.”