Track and field teams prepare to host first Heps since 2014

by Sabena Allen | 2/23/18 1:00am

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In 2017, Cha’Mia Rothwell ’20 set a new league record in the 60-meter hurdles.

Source: Courtesy of Cindi Mansell

The Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Championships brings together all eight Ivy League schools to compete for the conference title every year. The host location rotates between Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth and Harvard University. This year, it is Dartmouth’s chance to host the meet at Leverone Field House. Because each school only hosts Heps once every four years, this year’s indoor Heps presents a unique opportunity for the men’s and women’s Big Green track and field teams, according to women’s track and field co-captain Bridget Douglas ’18.

Coaches and students are extremely excited to put on a show, women’s track and field coach Sandy Ford-Centonze said.

According to Ford-Centonze, a lot of work goes into hosting Heps, especially from Dartmouth Facilities Operations and Management, which handles the bulk of setting up the equipment for this weekend’s meet. Coaches try to keep students away from the stressful aspects of planning and executing the weekend and instead focused on their performances.

“Hosting here is unbelievable,” Ford-Centonze said. “It does tend to be a week, about a week and a half, of a little higher stress level, higher tensions than normal. But as a coach, you expect that, and we do try to keep it away from the athletes and not have them be as stressed out or as filled with tension.”

Some track and field athletes participate by making posters and promoting the event through word of mouth and social media, but those who have qualified have been more focused on preparing to compete.

“In terms of administration stuff, if someone’s actually competing in the meet, we want those students to focus on that,” men’s track and field coach Barry Harwick ’77 said. “For some of our athletes who did not make the championship roster, they will be much more involved. They’ll be helping out with a wide variety of jobs at the meet, whether it’s retrieving implements or raking the long jump pit or helping out with results. There’s a lot of small jobs that need to be done to make the meet go off smoothly.”

According to Douglas, with each school bringing full teams, this is one of the Big Green’s biggest competitions of the season. All eight Ivy League schools will be present over the weekend.

“It’s definitely our most competitive meet that we go to during the winter term, but that just makes it a million times more fun,” Douglas said.

Though Leverone is a small venue, the intensity of the meet will not be lost.

“This league is a very competitive league, and it definitely shows when we all get together in this small space,” Ford-Centonze said. “Even the other schools look forward to coming here because of the intimacy and energy and excitement that it brings.”

Douglas noted that athletes are looking forward to competing at such a familar location.

“Hosting will be different just because we are very familiar with the facility,” Douglas said. “Going to a different school, although we might see [that facility] once a year, being in a facility that you’re in every day for two to three hours every day makes a difference. You’re very comfortable, you know the environment. I think having it at home is much more personal. It’s like [we’re] defending our house.”

The women’s team has had a strong season thus far, with four first-place finishes in meets during this indoor season. Ford-Centonze said the team’s pole vaulting prospects are especially exciting

“We have four vaulters who have really excelled well during the entire season,” Ford-Centonze said. “Two of them are sophomores, and two are freshmen and we’re really excited about that.”

Ford-Centonze noted the women’s team is feeling both positive and nervous going into the weekend, which is to be expected. They are focusing on what they can control for themselves: their own performances.

The men’s team has also found success, according to Harwick, especially at home meets. They have two first-place and two second-place finishes from Hanover this winter.

“I would say that the men on the team are very confident that this is going to be their best meet of the season,” Harwick said.

Heps is different from other meets because it is the league championship, so athletes step up their performances, according to Ford-Centonze.

With the league title on the line, athletes must not only perform well indiviudally, but also consider the impact on the team’s overall score.

“At a lot of meets during the season, track and field athletes tend to focus on what their individual performance is: how fast they ran, how far they threw, how high they jumped,” Harwick said. “And at Heps, it’s much more about where you place in an event and whether or not you score points for the team there.”

Last year, the men’s team finished third while the women’s team placed sixth. Top performances included Nico Robinson ’17’s second-place finish in the men’s heptathlon and Cha’Mia Rothwell ’20’s first-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump.

Because of the additional team mentality that a meet like Heps brings, the energy at Heps is electric.

Athletes can look forward to having their friends at the event to cheer them on. Heps is also a big draw for alumni and parents.

“We’re expecting a big crowd of alumni, parents and friends of the program to come back both to watch the meet and to cheer on our team,” Harwick said. “So we’re looking forward to connecting with those people.”

Hosting makes things easier for athletes to feel prepared for their events as they can avoid long bus rides and having to eat, stay and compete in unfamiliar places.

“I’d say [hosting has] made it less difficult just because we don’t have to travel,” Douglas said. “So spending a whole day on a bus definitely can make you feel kind of stiff. Being at home has made it easier because there’s not much preparation other than just concentrating on our event.”

However, the coaches may be under more pressure to organize the events. According to Ford-Centonze, coaches must focus not only on their own athletes’ needs but also on the needs of the other seven Ivy League schools to make sure the weekend goes smoothly.

“I would say that for me particularly and the coaching staff in general, hosting is a lot more work than when we travel there,” Harwick said. “I would quickly add to that statement, it’s well worth it because it gives us a chance to showcase our facility.”

The indoor championship will be broadcast on the Ivy League Network and on ESPN3. In addition to live coverage, Lancer Timing will post official results in live time. The order of events will also be listed on the website. Events will take place Saturday and Sunday.