Less than 24 hours remain before the 2016 HEPS Championships this weekend. Ever since I returned to campus in August to start the season and semester, earning an Ivy League title has constantly entered my mind, and now the opportunity is finally here. The Cornell men’s track and field team has built up such a strong base of athletes, and we are more than ready to reclaim our crown at Barton Hall.
Princeton got the better of us last time we met for the 2015 Indoor HEPS at Harvard. To be honest, it was a total slaughter — Princeton managed to score 161 points and we only managed to scrape up 98 for second place. Even with big performances from the likes of our Stephen Mozia and Rudy Winkler, Princeton had depth in too many events.
But this year is going to be a completely different story. With fewer injuries across the board for Cornell, I think we will be more than ready to avenge our loss in the comfort of our own home.
As a junior, the HEPS has become a track meet that means so much to me. I see it as a chance to represent the Ivy League and putting everything I worked for all year on the line. It is undoubtedly one of the most high energy meets in the NCAA, which is remarkable because it’s only between eight schools!
This meet is not only intense for the athletes, but for the coaches themselves. What is so special about this year’s HEPS is that it is head coach Adrian Durant’s first time hosting and leading his team as a head coach, making it one to remember for him. I honestly would not be half the athlete I am today if it were not for his coaching and deep understanding for the sport of track and field. Winning his first Ivy League title would mean the world to him, and I know I will do my part to help earn this reward.
And let’s not forget about the seniors! I myself think about how special having HEPS at home is during my warm-ups, but it pales in comparison to the emotions the senior class must be having. I’m sure teammates of mine like Max Hairston and Ryan Hynes are having mixed feelings about their last indoor HEPS being at Barton, considering it has been a second home to them ever since their freshmen years.
One thing for sure is that Cornell is the favorite to win the Indoor HEPS title. As of Feb. 23, we are projected to outscore Princeton by a fairly wide margin based on our season’s best performances. I myself am projected to place second in the 400m dash, but anything less than first in my own house is not in my personal projection. I, along with the rest of my teammates, have worked hard throughout the season to blow our past performances out of the water, meaning the other Ivy League schools better hope for a miracle against us.
To simply put it, coach Durant has devised a carefully calculated season for us athletes to be ready for the big show. Letting key performers rest when necessary as well as having younger members prove themselves throughout the season has facilitated a perfect system to select the top 33 performers on the team.
We 33 athletes have to accept that HEPS only comes to Barton Hall every four years, so the chance to represent the ‘C’ on our chest at home happens once in a lifetime. With all of the measures we take to take care of our bodies, schoolwork and each other, we will collectively perform at our highest levels to take what is ours.
The 2016 Indoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships kicks off on Saturday at 11 a.m. and the finals for running events follows on Sunday. This is the only chance you have to see the Cornell track and field team dominate the Ivy League. We may have been down-and-out last year, but we will come back with a fierce vengeance and earn back our title.