February 8, 2011

Competition Brings Track Squad Together

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As the Cornell track and field team heads into the crucial part of the season, the men and women will both be looking to the senior class for strong, focused leadership.

This year’s senior class is smaller than most other years.  Captains Kim Lienhoop, Kim Standridge and Mecha Santos on the women’s side, and Cody Boyd, Chris Tait, Alex Holcombe and Adrien Dannemiller on the men’s side will have the challenge of leading the team to success. Yet on a team where the athletes number into the hundreds, each senior athlete will have a greater chance to offer their guidance to the underclassmen.

“We have a lot of talented young guys,” said senior sprinter Brian Tan. “In terms of overall talent [on the team], it’s unproven talent … but there will definitely be a reliance on the younger guys.”

“We have a lot of potential and a lot of good things can happen, but everyone has to work hard to achieve those goals,” said senior captain and sprinter Mecha Santos.

With the talent obviously there, the seniors’ ability to lead by example in keeping the right mentality, both on and off of the track, will prove crucial.

For those that run all year long — cross-country to indoor to outdoor track — the seasons can all fade into one long year.

“We have a long season,” said senior cross-country captain Maura Carroll.  “We had a big transition from cross-country to track because the events are shorter and our training has to be faster. We’re not burned out yet, but are still looking for the best part of the season to come.”

“It’s hard during winter because we train outside, and weather is a big factor” said senior distance runner Matt De Silva.

Add that to the many challenges already facing student athletes and it becomes apparent that the success of such a team relies on the knowhow of the upperclassmen who have done it all before.

“A lot of people struggle being an athlete and a student with the time commitment, but success is not something that happens instantly,” added mid-distance runner Alana Levy. “You really have to work hard and keep at it, and the end is pretty great.”

“We have a very young team right now, we have a lot of great freshmen and they’re not sure what to expect,” Santos said. “As upperclassmen we have to make sure that they’re doing what they need to do.”

“It’s important to show the freshmen how hard you really have to work,” added senior captain and sprinter Cody Boyd.

Friendly competition also helps to keep the team strong, as the number of great runners means that athletes will sometimes have to fight for top spots.

“There is more depth than usual, which adds a level of competitiveness on our own team,” Tan said. “We have so many guys on the same event that are so close in terms of performance, so we are in a good spot as far as flexibility … but it’s tough because the guys you beat out are your friends.”

Creating a social aspect to the sport certainly helps the team surpass its challenges and the athletes have managed to remain close through all of the challenges they have faced.  The Spiked Shoe Society, a club started by members of the track and field team, brings teammates together by selling apparel, doing community service and hosting bonding activities.

“We’re all pretty close,” said senior mid-distance runner Lauren Bariexca, regarding the team’s social aspect. “Over the past four years the team has become a lot more unified.”

So far this season the athletes’ efforts have been paying off and they have achieved successful outcomes at their meets thus far.

“It’s been going very well so far this year, we are really starting to work together as a team and we’re seeing improvement every weekend,” Boyd said.

Matt De Silva pointed out that the focus of the team’s indoor season would really be on the Heptagonal Championships, this year held on Feb. 26 and 27.

“The biggest thing is to make sure everyone realizes the importance of Heps and is looking to have a good performance,” Carroll added.

The men’s side has won the last eight Heptagonal Championships and is looking to continue that trend.

“We want to help the young guys realize the significance of this,” Tan said. “It would be an Ivy league record for wins.”

The women are also looking to extend their winning standing at the competition; they have won the last eight out of nine competitions.

“Our team has been doing awesome in the season so far and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do at the championships,” Santos said.

Consensus among the seniors is that both teams are in the right place going into the competition this year.

“I haven’t ever been part of a team that is more talented,” Levy said. “We have a great shot at winning Heps.”

“And we still have three weeks to improve,” Boyd added. “Our main goal is to try and compete the best we can with runners from Princeton.”

These next few weeks of training will be especially important as the team approaches the culmination of their indoor season.  Runners will have to focus in order to achieve their best times of the season so far. For the seniors this year will be their last chance at achieving their best personal times.

“It would be great to get some personal records,” Bariexca said. “I’ve enjoyed my track experience, and I’m looking forward to outdoors and just having a good time.”

Original Author: Rebecca Velez