Yes, a freshman.
Daniel Chenoweth of Geneseo, Illinois fired a warning shot at the eleven-year school mark this past weekend, posting a ridiculously swift time of 8:04.72 in the same event.
That time was good enough to place Chenoweth second amongst all true freshmen in the nation and earned him a provisional qualification for the NCAA Championships.
What’s the young man’s secret? It’s not the shoes or a sweet aerodynamic haircut. Nor is it years of genetic modifications. It’s simply hard work and consistency every day in practice.
“Dan has been practicing at a very high level since he arrived last August,” said head coach Jason Saretsky via e-mail. “His passion, work ethic, and competitiveness has been there from day one and that consistency has allowed him to elevate his fitness to such a high level.”
His teammate, fellow freshman Ryan Neely adds, “With Dan, it’s all internalized. [He]’s really consistent, I’ve never seen him have a bad day. It’s a combination of staying healthy and every day running a great workout.”
After years of stagnant performances and a coaching turnover, Saretsky, in just a two-year span, has transformed the squad into a confident, and—more importantly—successful contender in the Ivies.
“Working with the coaches, I don’t have to worry about my training,” Chenoweth said. “They’re really there for us in any part of what we do, academically or athletically. They make things less stressful for us and work around our schedules.”
Certainly, performances like those of Chenoweth’s this past weekend serve to break the stereotype that Harvard athletes can’t compete on a national level with its peers.
Considering the recruiting controversy that has engulfed the men’s basketball team over the past few weeks, Chenoweth proves that athletes can still perform at the highest levels of sport and academia.
Reflecting on the significance of Chenoweth’s achievement, coach Saretsky adds, “It shows what Harvard student-athletes are capable of. You can get the best of both worlds here and one does not have to come at the expense of the other.”
For Chenoweth, performances like these are simply an accumulation of the work put in on a daily basis during practice. However, his performance may serve to further augment an already potent Harvard line-up in the future.
The energy cultivated by Saretsky and his staff over the past two years has enabled the team to set goals that were previously thought of as unattainable. Junior Becky Christensen, who had a breakout outdoor campaign last season, has qualified for this year’s National Indoor Championships.
The team as a whole has begun to place high expectations on themselves, a credit to the coaching staff and the hard-working attitude of the squad.
“One of the big things we focus on is just to continually improve,” Chenoweth said. “Nothing is out of the ordinary for us, all of us have trained consistently to make sure we keep getting better.”
Considering the level of achievement Chenoweth has accomplished at such an early stage in his career, it would be easy to succumb to the pressure of trying to garner such accolades consistently. However, his teammates point to his unique intensity and practice regimen as reasons why he’ll only continue to improve.
“Dan’s not the kind of person who gets complacent,” sophomore Chas Gillepsie said. “Whatever pressure Dan has is the pressure he puts on himself.”
Neely adds, “He just knows how to race. You can put him in any race and, no matter the competition, he’s going to go out there and believe he can win.”
With the season still in its infant stages, Chenoweth and his coaches know there is still more work to be accomplished. It’s a scary notion for other schools to consider; Harvard is just warming up. And Chenoweth has only just fired his pistons.
“In truth, Dan’s training has really been geared more for the outdoor season and the longer distances, so it is exciting to think of [what’s] still to come,” Saretsky said. “He has done some amazing workouts and this [past weekend] was a nice affirmation of all that hard work. However, there is still much more for Dan to accomplish.”
League be warned, youth is served.
—Staff writer Mauricio A. Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.