It all comes down to this weekend.
After countless hours of training and 15 tune-up invitationals, the Harvard track and field team has finally reached the most important meet of its outdoor season: the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships.
Penn will host this year’s edition of “Heps”—track and field’s version of an Ivy League Championship meet—at its historic Franklin Field in Philadelphia. The Crimson is looking to improve upon its performance at the Indoor Heptagonal Championships, where the men’s and women’s squads both finished in fourth place.
“A lot of people see Heps as this big, end-all, be-all of the season, and they get nervous,” said sophomore middle distance runner Alaina Murphy. “As a team, we’re working on walking in there and feeling like we belong.”
On the men’s side, Princeton was dominant at Indoor Heps, racking up 184 points en route to the team championship. For Harvard to put up the number of points that it will take to compete with the Tigers this weekend, its key contributors will need to rise to the occasion in their respective events.
Junior Nico Weiler is expected to battle Princeton’s David Slovenski for the men’s pole vault title. Slovenski and Weiler have proven themselves to be of a separate caliber from the rest of the Ancient Eight field. And though Weiler has dominated the rivalry as of late—including a victory at Indoor Heps, where he cleared a mark 0.10 meters higher than Slovenski—the Tigers senior will look to upset Weiler in his final Ivy League competition.
On the track, Princeton’s distance runners have long been the class of the Ivy League. Seniors Donn Cabral and Joe Stilin picked up a combined 32 points for the Tigers—more than half of Harvard’s total—at Indoor Heps. The Crimson’s distance runners will have their hands full as they toe the line next to Princeton’s veteran harriers.
“I’m happy with some of the things that we’re doing to close the gap with Princeton,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. “They clearly have a great history and tradition [in distance running], but we’re looking to build one of our own.”
Should the squad’s distance runners come up short, the team will look to a pair of throwers to tally key points in this weekend’s competition: freshman Ben Glauser and sophomore Dustin Brode.
A valuable one-two punch for the team this outdoor season, both Glauser and Brode delivered some of the best performances of their collegiate careers a week ago at the Penn Relays.
Brode earned one of Harvard’s only event wins against the deep field at the Relays in the shot put with an impressive 17.62-meter hurl. The sophomore took home first place at last year’s outdoor Heps by recording his personal-best throw of 17.65 meters.
“I’ve been trying to hit a [personal record] for a year now,” said Brode, who will also compete in the hammer throw and discus this weekend. “It’s about time I hit another one.”
And though Brode has come on as of late, it was Glauser who owned the day at this year’s indoor championship meet. The rookie edged Cornell freshman Stephen Mozia with a mark of 17.95 meters to earn the event win. If Glauser and Brode are at top form this weekend, they could pick up 18 crucial team points for the Crimson in the shot put.
Harvard’s female throwers will be equally important in determining the success of the women’s squad this weekend. Sophomore Adabelle Ekechukwu, who is also a Crimson arts and photography editor, is expected to earn 10 team points for Harvard by repeating as Ivy League champion in the weight throw.
“[Our throwers] are the rock and foundation of our team,” Saretsky said. “And I expect that to continue. I know that they’re all fired up and looking forward to the competition.”
The recent success of the Crimson’s 4x800 meter relay team is an encouraging sign heading into Heps. The team of Murphy and classmate Natalia Paine, freshman Erika Veidis, and senior Meg Looney earned an event win at the Penn Relays with a time of 8:53.95. If the foursome can repeat the strong showing, it will improve upon its sixth-place finish at Indoor Heps and earn valuable team points for the Crimson.
“I’m really excited for that race,” Murphy said. “We expect to compete to win….There are a lot of teams that have really tough 4x8’s, but I definitely don’t think anyone is counting us out.”
—Staff writer Dominic A. Martinez can be reached at email@example.com.