Months of training, weightlifting, dieting, nursing injuries and mentally preparing will culminate in the Heps indoor finals this weekend at Barton Hall for the men’s and women’s track and field teams. After the disappointment of being dethroned by Princeton one year ago, the Red is focused and gearing up for a chance to reclaim its title as Heps champion.
In preparation for Heps, Cornell hosted the Deneault Invite on Saturday, Feb. 18. This meet was a chance for many athletes to sit out and rest in preparation for the Heps, as well as an opportunity for the few remaining athletes still on the bubble to show their coaches and their teammates why they belong on the Heps squad.
“Every year [the Deneault Invite] is a great meet,” said senior short sprinter Chase Aaronson. “It’s everyone’s chance to either rest up for Heps or prove themselves for the Heps team. Every single year we have some great performances that come out of nowhere.”
Sophomore mid-distance runner John Schilkowsky described how important a meet like the Deneasult Invite is for an athlete who has been injured leading up to Heps.
“It was a good final tune-up before Heps; for some of the guys who have been injured, making sure that those guys are 100 percent ready to go [this week],” he said.
In addition to serving as a stepping-stone for Heps, the Deneault Invite had a fair share of strong performances by the Red. Highlights of the meet were when two freshmen broke school records. In the men’s shot put, Stephen Mozia broke a 37-year-old record with a throw of 62-8, while in the women’s 300m Katie Woodford broke a 20-year-old record with a time of 39.11.
In addition to Mozia, the men’s team won seven total events. Freshman Rutger Admirand won the 800m with a time of 1:51.56. Sophomore Montez Blair won the high jump with a leap of 7.25, while sophomore Peter Roach placed first in pole vault with a height of 16-4.75. Sophomore Mike Rabbitt claimed the 400m with a time of 49.65. The men’s team finished the day with 24 IC4A qualifiers.
On the women’s side, the Red captured 10 total events. In the 800m, freshman Jade Williams won with a time of 2:10.71. In the high jump, sophomore Jennifer Bush cleared 5-7 to take first, while freshman Lindsey Enders claimed pole vault, clearing 12-5.5. In the 400m, sophomore Libby O’Brien took first with a time of 57.25.
The Red is now focused and poised to come out strong in the fight for the Heps crown. Schilkowsky believes that this is going to be a two-team competition between Cornell and Princeton.
“Princeton and Cornell this year have the two best teams that the Ivy League has ever seen in track and field, and it’s going to be an absolute slugfest,” he said. “Every single race is going to be us going after each other. If you really want to see great competition between two great nationally elite teams, then you want to be here in Barton Hall this weekend. All year the coaches, [us], train to be 100 percent ready to go this weekend.”
Aaronson expressed that the time to perform at the team’s highest potential is now.
“If you’re going to peak at a time in the indoor season, it’s now; that’s what the indoor season is built around is the Heps,” he said “At a [school] like Cornell, it’s hard to only focus on sports with the rigorous academic schedule, but everyone is doing everything they can to get their work done early and get well rested.”
For the seniors, this weekend will mark their final indoor Heps — a feeling that senior co-captain Melissa Hewitt is just now realizing.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I’m excited because we’re at home. I feel like I’m putting a little more pressure on myself to win.”
For many first-time Cornell competitors, this is more than just their chance to compete for the team; this weekend is a chance for the rookie athletes to cement themselves as a force to contend with for years to come. Schilkowsky offered words of advice to his teammates competing for the first time.
“Just relax, and trust your training,” he said. “We train harder than anyone else in the league here at Cornell, so we know that we’re going to be ready to go and throw down some really good times this weekend.”
According to Hewitt, Princeton should be prepared for the Red because Cornell is determined to dethrone the Tigers.
“I’m sure they’re pretty confident, but I don’t think they know what’s coming,” she said.
Hewitt and her teammates will enter Heps with the hope that not only will they emerge victorious, but they will do so surrounded by their fellow Cornellians, in what they said would be a “sea of red.”