The Indoor Heptagonal Games, which Harvard hosted this past weekend, are the highlight of every Ivy League indoor track season--something for track teams to set their sights on.
And the Harvard track squads have been doing that--literally as well as figuratively--for the last few months.
High on the wall facing the triple jump runway (or the backstretch, if you're of the running mindset) at the Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis Center is a large HEPS spelled out in red tape.
"You're supposed to keep your head up in the triple jump," men's team Co-Captain Doug Boyd explained, "so we put an H on the wall to look at when we jump. As we got close to Heps, we just added -EPS to that H, and watched that."
"[The Heptagonals meet] is what we look to all season--it's much more important than any dual meet," Boyd continued. "I peak for this meet. We all do."
Unfortunately, Boyd and the Crimson were not alone in peaking for Heps. Although Harvard athletes registered a slew of season's bests, their times weren't enough to overcome even more outstanding performances by their opponents.
The Crimson men's and women's squads both finished fifth, right in the middle of their respective 10-team (including the eight Ivy schools, Army and Navy) fields.
The Cadets won the women's division with 105 points, 12 ahead of second-place (and Ivy winner) Penn. Princeton's men escaped with both the Heps and the Ivy titles--but barely, nosing out Cornell by a fraction, 96.75 to 96.
Fifth place had different connotations for the men and the women.
For the men, fifth place was a pretty good finish--it was about where they had expected to place. Two of the four teams that finished ahead of them (Princeton and Yale) had previously beaten the Crimson. And Harvard ended up ahead of the other two Ivy squads (Dartmouth and Brown) it had lost to earlier.
But from the female perspective, fifth place was disappointing. "We fell a little short of our expectations," Co-Captain Camille Birmingham said.
But there was a silver lining to Harvard's cloudy weekend at the track. "We had a lot of really good individual performances," Birmingham said. "Everybody tried their hardest, but the chips didn't fall in the right place."
But Crimson chips did find their way to some victories. Jenny Striker, running in the unseeded section of the 5000 meters, won her race in a time better than the winning time in the seeded final, earning the title of Ivy and Heps indoor 5000 champion.
Boyd soared away from the high jump field with a jump of 7-ft., 0.5-in. It was the first time this indoor season that Boyd has gone over seven feet.
Cliff Sheehan exhibited his six million dollar kick twice on Sunday. After finishing a disappointing third in the 3000 on Saturday ("I didn't have enough guts to stay with the pace," he said), Sheehan was hungry for a win. And he twice feasted on Navy's Ron Harris.
In the 1500 meters, Sheehan ran in last place for 400 meters, and moved up to second place behind Harris at the 600-meter mark. He stayed there until the bell lap, and surged past Harris with 150 meters to go.
Two hours later, in the distance medley relay, anchorman Sheehan took the baton from Hugh Cole and began his mile leg 20 yards behind Harris. He gradually chased down the midshipman, moving into striking position with two laps to go.
After making Harris sweat for 340 meters, Sheehan sprinted by his prey, breaking into a wide smile as he crossed the finish line in meet record time of 9:55.65 (with Harris two tenths of a second back).