Track Endures the Swarthmore Winter

Running in short shorts has never been so cold.  While much of the school was bundled up at home or seeking warmer climes, the Swarthmore track and field team cut their winter break off early to train at school.  Between practices, the men’s and women’s teams found time for two trips to New York for meets.
For all of the Garnet athletes, the time spent training at school was a welcome opportunity.  For distance runners like Erick White ’15, the joys of training were found in simple conveniences: “We get to have practice earlier, so we don’t have to go running in the dark.  It also isn’t as crowded in the field house because only one or two teams are on campus, so you get better access to some of the resources like trainers or the varsity gym.”
At the same time, the sprinters had a chance to double their workload in the absence of classes.  As Amy Amuquandoh ’16 explained that rather than practice once a day, the sprinters did longer runs in the morning and harder sets in the afternoon.  Jason Heo ’15 considered these workouts to be “more intensive” than those in the regular season.
Heo added that the double practices especially benefitted the athletes with field events, who had time to work on all of their jumps, sprints and throws.  “I’m sure Eric Verhasselt ’13, our sole decathlete, enjoyed having the extra time to train.”
It wasn’t all work and no play though, as the Garnet were left with considerable downtime between practices.  According to White, this makes winter training an enjoyable experience: “We have such a fun time that we get bummed out when everyone comes back and we no longer have the campus to ourselves,” he said laughingly.
Runners agreed that the time spent together brought the team closer.  Heo said, “We are already a close-knit team to begin with, but this break definitely helped bring freshmen closer to the rest of the team – especially the freshmen sprinters.  The whole break is a nice time to have meals together and play card games or hangout in any dorm lounge before/after practice.  In addition, we also had several activities planned throughout the almost two week period. ”  Highlights of these, he said, were a scavenger hunt planned by Osazenoriuwa Ebose ’15 and a team-wide game of Assassins.
Amuquandoh said she not only grew closer to the rest of the sprinters, but to the rest of the team as well. “I believe the time that really brought us all together was when we had dinner at Richard’s house where his parents made us a wonderful pasta and salad dinner. At first we had a hard time sitting separately from the people we were comfortable with, but after some (gentle) coercing, all the sprinters and distance runners spread themselves out.”
The team’s hard work paid off in the two meets in New York.  During both the Gotham Cup and NYU Team Challenge, both hosted by New York University, the men and women recorded several season- and lifetime best times, some of which ranked highly in the Swarthmore record books.
At the Gotham Cup, the Garnet were led by a second-place finish by the women’s distance medley relay of Katie McMenamin ’16, Jenna Cody ’16, Rebecca Hammond ’13, and Julia Nee ’15 (12:35.91).  The time ranks third in program history and qualified for the ECAC Championships later this year.
The sprinters did very well at the meet as well, with three runners entering the program top-ten in the 60 meter dash on both the men’s and women’s sides, highlighted by Heo’s program record 7.48 on the men’s side.  Heo also achieved a top-five ranking in program history with his finish of 9.55 seconds in the 60 meter hurdles.
The Garnet continued to perform well the following weekend.  In their return to New York, the Garnet women were led by a second-place finish by Hammond in the mile (5:02.46), while the men were paced by White’s sixth place finish in the 800 meter run (1:59.68).
Looking ahead in the schedule, Swarthmore has several invitationals to tune up with before the Centennial Conference Championships on February 23.  The Garnet winter training is a key part of the preparation for this, according to Heo.  “For some it’s a time when we can really focus on improving technique and for others, it’s a time that we can really push our bodies since it is still early in the season.  We definitely want to compete at the highest level for every meet, but we also keep in mind that we’re training for February.”  With encouraging results from the meets thus far, the Garnet appear to be preparing for February quite well indeed.

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