Track and field teams prepare for Heptagonal Championships

| 2/24/15 6:01pm
The track and field teams will compete at the Heptagonal Championships this weekend.
by Kelsey Kittelsen / The Dartmouth

The men’s and women’s track and field teams will look to continue their strong seasons at the 2015 Ivy League Heptagonal Championships this weekend. Hosted at Harvard University’s Gordon Indoor Track Facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Heps is arguably the most important meet of the indoor track season for both teams.

The meet marks the only time the Big Green will face all seven Ivy League teams during the indoor season.

“As coaches, we’re looking to have our athletes peak at the right time,” women’s head coach Sandy Ford-Centonze said. “The right time is this weekend.”

In the 2014 championship, the women’s team placed second — netting its best finish in 18 years and the most points the program has garnered at an indoor competition — and the men placed fifth.

On the men’s side, defending champion No. 75 Cornell University is projected to repeat its success from last year. On the women’s side, No. 63 Dartmouth is ranked just six spots below No. 57 Columbia University, who finished third at last year’s Heps behind Dartmouth and Harvard. Defending champion Harvard currently sits below both Dartmouth and Columbia at 83 in the rankings.

“We’ve come in second last year for indoor and outdoor Heps, and we have a great team this year,” Lauren Ready ’15 said. “We have a lot of girls in multiple events to increase our depth, and hopefully we can acquire more points this way.”

The Ivy League limits each team to 33 competitors in each gender, Ford-Centonze said, so both teams will look to some athletes to compete in as many as five races over the two-day span. Due to the restriction, choosing each athlete and event becomes a strategic decision.

“It’s a chess match trying to figure out what the other schools will be doing,” Ford-Centonze said. “Hopefully we’re putting people in the right place — it all comes down to what happens on those two days.”

This year’s championships mark the first time that the men’s and women’s teams will be competing in the exact same 20 events, men’s head coach Barry Harwick said. The women will look to their strong distance, sprint and jump squads led by Kaitlin Whitehorn ’16, Dana Giordano ’16 and Jennifer Meech ’16 for their best results, while Allison Frantz ’18 is also a threat for the heptathlon crown.

The men’s side features an especially strong team of distance runners, led by Curtis King ’16 and Joey Chapin ’16. Both runners are coming off of strong performances in the mile and 3000 meters in the past few weeks, including Chapin’s first-place finish in the 3000m at the Dartmouth Relays and both men being the first collegiate runners to cross the finish line in the event at the Boston University Terrier Classic.

“Our main goal is to score as many points as possible,” Harwick said. “We have 40 opportunities to score [in both the men’s and women’s competitions], and if we score in at least 30, we’ll definitely do well as a team.”

Despite these ambitious team goals, both the athletes and the coaches stressed the high level of thought that goes into determining the team that will head to Cambridge.

“The team needs to go into this meet with a high level of confidence,” Thomas Servino ’15 said. “Everyone has earned their place on the post-season roster and has a shot to do some damage in their respective events.”

Preparation for the meet has included weeks of hard training and competing. This week, though, the teams are focused on resting before the weekend.

“Physiologically, it’s not realistic to get in better shape between now and Saturday,” Harwick said. “If they can get as much rest as possible and get ahead in any academic work — going into the weekend without any papers hanging over their head — that’d be a great boost.”

Above all, the teams will look to be mentally prepared to compete at the highest level.

“To do our best I think we have to be in the right mindset,” Ready said. “With such a large team, it is important to support everyone at the meet.”

Heps will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday and conclude Sunday afternoon.

“Anything can happen at Heps,” Servino said. “The energy at this meet is incendiary, and those people who react to this energy and use it in their events are going to walk away successful.”