Unlike other athletes, members of the track and field team get multiple shots at an Ivy League Championship every year. For seniors who are also on the cross country team, this weekend's Heps is their 12th, and, just as with most things for seniors in May, it feels like it's all happening so fast.
“I don't think you have to be a fan of track to know that, at Heps, something pretty exciting and historic is happening and everyone there cares a ton about it. There's just a ton of energy in the air,” senior John Gregorek said.
Gregorek won the Ivy title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last year, but he won't defend his title in New Haven, Connecticut, this weekend. Instead, he'll run the 1,500 meters, in which he's ranked second in the league right now. With a win in the 800 meters last week in Princeton, N.J., the All-American from the indoor season showed that his speed is in top form.
He's one ticket to Ivy glory among only a few on the men's side, which just doesn't cover enough events to have a chance at being top three in the meet. Assistant coach Will Boylan-Pett, CC '05, said he's hoping for a fourth-place team finish on Sunday. The more versatile women's team, however, could eke out an underdog win, but there's less room for error than in the indoor season.
The team will look to runners like senior Marvellous Iheukwumere, the reigning 100- and 200-meter dash Ivy champion, who literally got back on track last week after a two-and-a-half week injury sidelined her. She's currently ranked second in the league in both those events, with times of 11.68 and 24.08.
“I'm coming into this meet very grateful to be here,” she said. “I'm just kind of letting everything out and competing with all my heart, just competing with all that I have—that's how I'm going into both of those races.”
“If her hamstring holds up, that's pretty much it, she's definitely the class of the field,” Boylan-Pett said. “If she's healthy and can do it, she'll get the job done.”
Other big hopes for the women's team will include sophomore Jaycee Parker in the 400, senior Trina Bills in the 800, junior Waverly Neer in the 5k and the 3k, and junior Nadia Eke in the jumps.
On the men's side, senior Harry McFann is likely to dominate in the 800. He and Gregorek are the “two guys that have wanted Heps titles in the past and really are the clear number-one seed in their events,” Boylan-Pett said. “That's a good thing to be in, but there's also pressure. I think they're both ready to get the job done.”
Saturday features mostly prelims, while the majority of the finals are run on Sunday. “We've just really been talking to the kids about making sure they get their job done today and making it to the finals tomorrow,” Boylan-Pett said. “No matter what your seed is, treat it like a final—if you're not in the top eight or 10, then you don't even have that chance to win.”
Among the events that will finish Saturday is the hammer throw, where both junior Joanna Koronios and senior Duncan Dickerson are at the front of the pack. Dickerson, who won this title last year, “looks ready to go,” Boylan-Pett said. “He's confident. Our goal is to get it done early and set a good tone for the weekend.”
The 10k is last up on the schedule for Saturday, and it's poised to look just like a run in the Van Cortlandt Park flats, with all members of the cross country team in the mix.
The teams run through the weekend, with the awards ceremony at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday. After that, the dynamic of the season changes.
“Entering into postseason, Heps is the first big stop,” Gregorek said. “It's the most sentimental of the meets, and then after that it becomes a little more individual. Once you get toward the national level, you're still repping your school, but it's a little more on your own.”
The action begins at 11 a.m.
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