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The Dartmouth
April 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Run: Championship Season

Varsity distance runner and former sports editor Jason Norris ’24 writes about the track team’s season so far as the squad sets sights on the upcoming Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships.

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Big Green track and field and cross country runner Jason Norris ’24 provides a firsthand look into the ups and downs of the indoor track and field season as the team prepares for its first competition of the year.

Today marks 12 days until the 2023 Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships, or “Heps” for short. While, to the majority of campus, the Winter Carnival ice and snow sculptures indicate it is time for skiing, ice skating and festivities, for us — the Varsity track team — it signals the beginning of championship season.

This year, Heps will be hosted by Dartmouth in the historic Leverone Field House. At Heps, all Ivy League teams are packed onto the same 200-meter track for the first time all season and go head-to-head to earn medals. In an arena with no elevated bleachers, a miniscule area for athletes to warm up and an unbanked track, it will be one of the most intensely competitive atmospheres in track and field. Coaches, athletes and spectators will be breathing down each other’s necks and screaming over each other as their favorite athletes race to the finish. For Dartmouth track and field, all focus is on Heps these next two weeks.

In the past month, the squad has been training and competing fiercely. Like most seasons, it has been one of highs and lows. In the past few weeks, members of our squad have set an unprecedented number of six school records — which include a 3:13.70 by our men’s 4x400-meter team, a 3:43.51 from our women’s 4x400-meter squad, a 2:05.26 800-meter run by Julia Fenerty ’23, a 2:21.94 1,000-meter race by Eric Gibson ’23, a 47.91 400-meter run by Liam Murray ’26 and a height of 5.18 meters in the pole vault by David Adams ’26.

On the back side, however, many of my teammates have been plagued by injury and fatigue. Whether these injuries are a product of running 14 miles in the single-digit temperatures, transitioning from our old coach’s training to our new coach’s system or the normal wear and tear of high-performance athletics, an unusually high number of my team members have suffered injury. 

Personally, I’ve had a unique season. After a disappointing rust-buster to kick it all off, I had two back-to-back performances in which I learned that track was a contact sport. At the annual Dartmouth-Yale-Columbia meet, 500 meters into the 1000-meter race I was coasting in third place, waiting to make my move. As we ran into the back turn, a Yale runner took what he claimed to be a misstep — but felt like a swift sledge-hammer of a kick — and sent me stumbling to a stop way out into lane six, barely staying on my feet and effectively taking me out of the race. Then, at our next meet, a similar situation took place in which I was leading with 100 meters to go in the race. Preparing to round the final curve, I hugged the inside lane and shifted up a gear. At this moment, a competitor behind me tried to pass me on the left — the inside lane, where there was no space — and pushed me from behind. The next thing I knew, I face-planted into the BU track and laid there in a daze as other racers jumped over my body. Fury filled my bones: In my eight years of running track and field, I had never experienced a race ruined due to contact — and all of a sudden I had two.

I was already incredibly frustrated after these performances before yet another adverse moment came my way: There was an error with my entry for this past weekend’s Valentine Invitational at BU, and I was unable to compete in the meet.  Rather than address this error with the meet director, my coach asked me to run a  solo-effort time trial. As someone fighting for a spot on the competitive Heps lineup, I was infuriated that my final opportunity to prove myself in a race environment suddenly vanished and was not more strongly advocated for by my coach. Irritated — but determined to prove myself — I focused on the time trial. On the Friday evening of Winter Carnival, I ran the 1000-meter around the Leverone track. Energized by frustration as well as my teammates who came to cheer me on, I ran a personal best of 2:28.1 — despite the nonideal conditions. While I am proud of my composure and performance in the extenuating circumstances, I remain baffled that this was the situation I was put in.

Although this season has definitely had its setbacks, I have been lucky enough to only have minor ailments unlike many of my teammates. After I misaligned my hip and over-exhausted the tendon connecting my knee and quad three weeks ago, lighter training for a few days and cupping therapy — which has covered my body in large purple polka dots — has thankfully kept me running.

As Heps approaches, the team is now transitioning into our championship season. This entails fine-tuning training to focus on our individual events, taking care of our bodies with sleep, receiving treatment and making it our number one priority to feel phenomenal on Feb. 25. And most importantly, as great as breaking records is, it is time for us to focus on competing as a team. With Heps on our home track for the final time in the foreseeable future, Dartmouth has the home-field advantage and the opportunity to make it happen. For now, in this championship season, it is all about trusting our training and having confidence in our racing — when the gun goes off in two weeks, we will be there ready to compete.