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Mayank Agrawal

Athlete of the week: Mayank Agrawal ’18

in Athlete of the Week/Fall/Men/Sports by

Mayank Agrawal ’18, hailing from Sugarland, Texas, has contributed immensely to the Swarthmore Men’s Cross Country team throughout his four years with the program. Agrawal finished 24th overall in the Centennial Conference Championships this past Saturday, leading the Garnet to a fifth-place finish. Agrawal’s stellar performances were not limited to the Conference Championships: notable highlights throughout his senior season include a 17th place overall finish at the Bryn Mawr Invitational, and a 21st place finish at the Paul Short White. Agrawal and the team will prepare for their final meet, the NCAA regionals, on Nov. 11.

Ping Promrat: What is your major, and what inspired you to pursue it?

Mayank Agrawal: I am a double major in computer science and philosophy. In high school, math was my thing, but I didn’t think I’d be able to do a full math major, nor have the science chops to do an engineering major. Computer science seemed like a great hybrid of the two, even though I had no computer science background coming into Swarthmore. I became interested in philosophy during my freshman spring after taking Introduction to Philosophy with Professor Thomason. There’s actually a very large overlap between philosophy, and math and computer science, believe it or not.

PP: What do you want to do after you graduate from Swarthmore?

MA: Ideally, I plan on going to graduate school to study cognitive science. I want to better understand how the mind works, while using computational frameworks to try and answer those questions.

PP: How have you balanced the opportunities you’ve been able to pursue outside of the classroom with competing and staying fit for cross country?

MA: There’s no perfect magic formula to it, but I’ve had to figure out how to allocate my time to pursue what’s important to me. Having such a big time commitment for practice in the day forces you to plan efficiently. I actually think participating in a sport has allowed me to be much more efficient and get more work done, because I think I’m much more aware as to how valuable my time is.

PP: As you reflect on your career at Swarthmore, what was the most rewarding athletic experience for you?

MA: During my sophomore spring, I ran the 10k at the Outdoor Conferences. I wasn’t expected to place (the top eight place), and it was my first time running this distance. As the race went on, I kept on picking people off, and I ended up snagging 8th place and placing, which was a complete shock to me. The race was on a Friday night, and most of my teammates who were coming to Conferences weren’t there yet. However, when I got back, I found out that the whole team was watching the livestream in Sharples. To have such a huge athletic achievement, while having teammates watching and cheering me on from afar was one of my most memorable experiences at Swarthmore.

PP: What got you into running as a sport as a child?

MA: One weekend during my sophomore year of high school I was really bored, so I decided to go for a run. It was the most painful experience of my life, but I actually enjoyed it! At the beginning, I couldn’t even run a mile. However, I began to run every weekend, and then every day, and then eventually joined the track team at my high school.

PP: If you could change one thing about Swarthmore, what would it be and why?

MA: I think in regular discourse at Swarthmore, particularly outside the classroom setting, we need to get better at evaluating people on their justification for their views. Sometimes, myself included, we are quick to label people who have different views than us, and I hope that Swatties can continue to aspire to be more open-minded.

Track Optimistic Heading Into Conferences

in Sports by

Five meets into a solid winter season, Swarthmore’s track and field team has their sights set on the conference championships later this month. The team has enjoyed greater depth this year due to a large influx of freshmen, especially among the sprinters and fielders, who have nearly doubled in size.

“Over the past couple of years, our team has been working on adding depth, transitioning away from a more distance-heavy team and into a more well-rounded one,” said distance runner Mayank Agrawal ’18, “This year’s increased presence of jumpers and throwers has allowed us to make this transition, and we hope to be more competitive in conferences as a result.”

Additionally, the returning players have been impressive in setting an example for the team’s younger members. Sophomores Andrew Jansen ’18 and Jenn Beltran ’18 have each achieved new PRs in the past three weeks, with a shotput throw of 12.74m and 400-meter dash time of 1:04.42 respectively. Similarly, Sarah Nielsen ’16 qualified for conferences at the Villanova Invitational last weekend after finishing as the top DIII runner in a competitive one-mile run.

Though perhaps the most notable standout this season has been distance runner Indy Reid Shaw ’17, who, after beating out 34 DII and DIII competitors to win the mile race with a PR of 5:18.5 at the Kuztown Golden Bear Invitational, was named Centennial Conference Runner of the Week. Shaw’s success continued into last Saturday’s meet at the Villanova Invitational, where she crushed Swarthmore’s 12-year-old 3000m record by over four seconds (10:12.98).

Looking forward, members of the team have two goals: set new PRs and qualify for indoor conferences on February 27. However, this is difficult to achieve during the indoor season —- especially for hurdlers, sprinters, and distance runners —- as the shorter track distance alters the kinds of races that can occur. For example, runners whose training revolves around the 100-meter dash, an outdoor event, must compete in the much quicker 60-meter dash.

“Indoor is hard; a lot of your times are slower indoors due to the tighter curves of the indoor track. The only event that’s really better indoors is the pole vault because there’s no wind,” sprinter Ben Hejna ’19 commented.

The harder surface of the winter season’s indoor track has also resulted in a myriad of injuries, which are holding the team back from reaching their full potential. Fortunately, the injured players will have time to recover, as much of the emphasis on training is oriented around peaking during the spring season. This is typical of any collegiate track and field program, especially for distance runners who taper strategically to optimize performance at outdoor conferences.

While head coach Peter Carroll is satisfied with the team’s achievements this winter, he believes there is room for improvement.

“The team’s performances have been solid,” Carroll said. “Standouts have been a bunch so far, and we have a nice crop of first years. However, we certainly have a ways to go because we are not peaked yet and need to get some more practice under our belts.”

Fortunately, the team has two more weeks to prepare for indoor conferences that athletes can qualify for by meeting officially designated times or distances throughout the season. After the men’s disappointing 8th place finish (out of 9 teams) and women’s 7th place finish (out of 10 teams) at last year’s indoor conferences, both teams are eager for the opportunity to compete. Team morale is high going into the event, and, despite recent injuries, members remain focused and optimistic for the future.

“I think that every day, we are getting stronger and faster. We are truly supportive of each other, in that instead of trying to be better than another teammate, we push each other to run faster,” said sprinter Becky Tang ‘18. “I can’t help but feel proud of my teammates when they PR or run an awesome race, and we’re always cheering each other on.”

Freshman hurdler Benjamin Hejna ‘19 reported similarly optimistic sentiments, saying, “There have been strong performances across the board, and we’ll be working progressively harder as we move towards conferences.”

The young track and field squad is hopeful that their “day-in day-out” mentality will pay off later this month, but until then, they’ll be grinding.

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