May 2, 2008

Track Hosts Invitational as Tuneup for Upcoming Heps

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To kick off the month of May, the Red will be hosting the Cornell Outdoor Invitational tomorrow — the men’s and women’s track teams will be rolling into the weekend with momentum from last week’s successes at the Penn Relays.
At that three-day competition, Cornell dominated in a number of events — the women achieved eight top-10 appearances in the championship round along with an impressive number of ECAC and NCAA Regional qualifiers. Following suit, the men also made an impact at the Penn Relays with top-10 showings in almost every relay event along with many IC4A and NCAA Regional qualifying performances in other running, throwing and jumping events.
[img_assist|nid=30428|title=No place like home|desc=Damian Silverstrim competes Sunday at the Big Red Invitational, leading up to this week’s Cornell Outdoor Invitational.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Looking forward to this Saturday and the Cornell Outdoor Invitational, the main goals for the Red seems very clear: practice, practice, practice. With the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships coming up next weekend, all of the track athletes are looking to work out the kinks in preparation for the last hurrah of the season.
“For me personally, the Cornell Outdoor Invitational is a kind of warm-up for the Heps,” said senior hurdler and sprinter Aaron Merrill. “I’m just going to be running the 110-meter hurdles and maybe the 400. For the hurdles, my goal is always to break the school record, which I think I have a good chance of doing this weekend.”
While training and physical fitness are key for both this weekend’s Cornell Outdoor Invitational and next weekend’s championships, many athletes are going back to the basics. According to sophomore pole vaulter Natalie Gengel, getting the fundamentals down usually makes all the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
“I’m trying to perfect my form [going into this weekend],” Gengel said. “I’ve sort of gotten away from that lately, and I need to work on improving that [at the Cornell Outdoor Invitational]. … If you improve your form, it should all come together.”
Now that the championships are fast approaching, the track teams are prepping for a weekend that will shake off any rust before the Heps. With a set practice routine in place for most individual athletes and event groups, the Red is getting into a smooth rhythm that will hopefully follow them to next weekend’s championship performances.
“We pole vault three days a week,” Gengel said. “Our Wednesdays are our off-days. We use that to recover our bodies. After we jump for those three days, we also do a short running workout. Some days, that’s just short and fast, and we also do some bungees to get us running faster with weights on the side as well. Other times, the running workouts will be longer, and we’ll lift afterwards.”
“Well, I think the goal for most of our team at the Heps is just to win the team championship,” Merrill said. “Individual glory is second to that definitely — I really want to go out winning our fourth consecutive outdoor Heps. Then, if I can get an individual championship in the process, that’s great, but that’s really not the focus of my efforts with the team at the outdoor Heps.”
Even though the spectator might not notice, the Red track teams seem just as united and team-driven as any of the other varsity sports. Individual events and victories are the norm in this sport, but Merrill elaborated on how the competition brings the athletes together both at meets and during practices.
“We have group practices mostly everyday. There’s really not that much individual work,” Merrill said. “We practice together everyday, so there’s a lot of camaraderie there. When we get to the meet, it definitely is as team-spirited as any other team sport like basketball or football. We all support each other whether we’re doing individual events or not, but practice is definitely a team effort as well.”