Tomorrow’s Deneault Memorial at Barton Hall serves two main purposes for both the men’s and women’s track squads. The first is to honor Marc Deneault ’01, a quarter-mile runner who died in 1999. The other is to prepare for next week’s two-day Heptagonal championship competition.
Not thought of as one of the Red’s toughest competitions of the year, coaches for both the men’s and women’s teams will have their work cut out for them, as they take on the arduous task of paring their 60-member squads into 33 stars who will go to Heps next week.
“The better the team, the harder the decisions become when deciding who should race in the Heps,” said coach Lou Duesing.
While some spots have already been filled, Duesing said a few positions remain to be finalized. Despite the competition, Duesing emphasized that he did not want his team to focus on internal competition this weekend.
“My goal is for all 33 people to make a contribution,” said Duesing. “It’s a matter of fitting all those people together.”
In terms of preparation, the women’s squad, bolstered by tremendous senior leadership, has been very focused in its practices the last few weeks.
“This is pretty much a no-nonsense team,” said Duesing. “The degree to which a team is successful is the quality of senior leadership.”
Senior jumper Hannah Garrity has returned from her trip abroad in Scotland to regain her dominant status and provide vital leadership on and off the track. Other chief seniors include mid-distance runners Ann Hansgate and Natalie Gingerich, as well as long-jumpers Ib Stanley-Ikhilioju, and Kalifa Pilgrim.
Another strength of the women’s team this year, according to Duesing, has been the consistency of the junior class. Notable junior leaders include runners Kate Boyles, Jessica and Shonda Brown, and Kari Steed.
“They have a great attitude about them. They are rock solid people who get mad if they’re not doing several events. All of them set the tone in practice that we are coming at you with everything we’ve got, so get ready. I love that about them.”
Veteran coach Nathan Taylor knows what it takes to capture the Heps championship. In the last 10 years, Taylor has been the only coach to steal the Heps championship from Princeton. He first did it in 1997 while coaching at Penn, and he did it last year with the Red. This year, he and his team will look to repeat as champions, but Taylor realizes that he has some serious decisions to make based, in part, on his athletes’ performances this weekend.
“We have a number of guys trying to earn spots on the Heps roster this weekend,” said Taylor. “I’d like to see them all do well. Others will be resting this weekend. Therefore, this is really a multi-faceted meet for us.”
An areas in which the men have excelled this year has been the jumping events; the long spring group, which includes juniors Brian Eremita, Kenan Goggins, and Greg Simonds, has earned Cornell valuable points all season. Additionally, the 35-pound weight competition, featuring senior star Giles Longley-Cook, and the shot put, which spotlights junior sensation Zach Beadle have also been strong spots for this squad.
There are some surprising freshman contributors who have very solid chances of racing next weekend as well. Triple-jumper Kofi Ofori-Ansah is one of the rookies who has surprised Taylor.
“He has really made a huge improvement from high school,” said Taylor, “and has the best triple jump in the league.”
Injuries for this track team, as for most teams down the stretch of a season, could be a deciding factor in whether this year’s squad can repeat as champions.
Senior pole vaulter Travis Offner has suffered a multitude of injuries, including two different torn quad muscles and a hamstring injury. But the setbacks will not prevent Offner from competing in his final Heps.
According to Taylor, “His best pole vault is a foot better than anyone in the conference. He is one of our best bets for a championship.”
Archived article by Josh Fox