For most athletes, the reward after a full season of hard work and dedication is a well-deserved offseason to rest and recover. For most runners however, there is no offseason: fall cross-country flows into indoor track which, come spring, will give way to outdoor track and field. While this schedule can be grueling — Julia Nee ’15 points out that, “so many on our team are three season athletes, so there’s always going to be nagging injuries from the strain”. Swarthmore’s indoor runners have refused to use fatigue as an excuse. Instead, they appear to have turned the transition into a positive, coming out of the gates with several strong performances in the first meets of the season.
Swarthmore’s squad has spent the past two weekends in New York City, competing in the Gotham Cup and the NYU Saturday Night Shootout. Showing no ill effects from the winter break, several Garnet women posted personal bests at the Gotham Cup. Katie McMenamin ’16 led the way with a 2:16.13 800-meter time, good for third place in the event and eighth best in Swarthmore College history. Also posting top ten finishes at the meet were Liz Tawa ’15, who ran the 1,000-meter in 3:07.44 to make seventh place, and Sarah Nielsen ’16, whose 5:17.77 mile was good for eighth place. McMenamin highlighted Tawa’s performance as one that particularly “stood out” among several impressive showings.
On the men’s side, Jonas Oppenheimer ’15 posted the College’s fastest 3,000-meter time in nearly a quarter century. His 8:48.49 pace was good for eighth place in a meet featuring numerous NCAA Division I athletes. Paul Green ’16, Erick White ’14 and John Gagnon ’17 also posted impressive times in the 1,000, 800 and mile, respectively. Oppenheimer attributed the team’s strong post-break start to “everybody going to work” and pushing each other, adding that “we all came back two weeks early from winter break to train and compete.”
The Garnet runners enjoyed their success in New York so much that they returned to the Armory Track and Field Center this past Saturday for the NYU Saturday Night Shootout. For the women, the meet was highlighted by the ECAC-qualifying 4×800 relay time of 9:40.96 posted by Tawa, Nielsen, McMenamin and Kate Hannah ’17. The time was good for second in the meet and stands currently as the fastest Centennial Conference time this season. Two other Garnet women posted top three finishes: Katie Lin ’16 ran the 400-meter dash in 1:01.24, good for third place, while shot put standout Osazenoriuwa Ebose ’15 finished second best in the meet. Swarthmore’s young runners excelled in the spotlight of the City that Never Sleeps; Hannah helped pace the 4×800 team, while Anise Charles and Lulu Allen Waller joined Nee and Lin on a 4:34.50 sprint medley relay. Additionally, Indy Reid-Shaw posted an eighth place finish of 10:50.00 in the 3,000-meter. Relay teams won the night for the men as well. Oppenheimer, White and Green teamed with Corey Branch ’17 to break 8:00 in the 4×800 relay. Their 7:59.12 time, which earned the team a third place finish in the meet, marks a program record. It qualified the quartet for ECAC’s and stands as the top Centennial Conference time. The 1,600-meter sprint relay squad of Gavin Fahey ’14, Jason Heo ’15, Josh Gregory ’15 and Stuart Arbuckle ’17 posted a similarly impressive performance, turning in a 3:49.31 fourth place time. Dominic Castro-Wehr ’16, Richard Scott ’14 and Stuart Russell ’14 turned in strong performance in mid-distance events.
Swarthmore’s success, especially in the mid-distance events, may be a byproduct of the top physical condition many members of the team are in from running for cross country in the fall season. Both McMenamin and Nee attributed their strong starts, in part, to a carryover from cross country. Nee explained that “while I’m a sprinter and I wasn’t all that competitive [in cross country], I definitely came into the winter season stronger and with more endurance than I have in years past.”
Garnet runners also credited strong team chemistry and a challenging preseason strength and conditioning regimen with preparing the team for its early success. Heo described the drive and dedication of his teammates as “extremely motivating,” adding that, “we’re always looking to create a more supportive team environment.” Heo credited strength and conditioning coach Eric Hoffman for the team’s strong physical condition, saying that, “our preparation gets better each year with more productive preseason training and better weightlifting regimens.”
No Swarthmore runner has stood out more than McMenamin. The Lafayette, Colorado native was recently named U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association national of the week for Division III. The honor is well deserved, as McMenamin’s times in both the 800-meter and mile rank in the top five nationally. McMenamin has her eye on the prize, noting that “after last year… I’m coming into this year with a lot more confidence and motivation. I think that’s what’s driven me to race hard early on in the season with the ultimate goal of qualifying for nationals.”
Swarthmore’s sights are set high for the rest of the season. The team is working to prime itself for a strong showing in Centennial Conference meets and to continue to meet the high standards that come from several years of program success. Heo pointed out that this will be the tenth consecutive season that the Garnet have sent at least one athlete to NCAA nationals. The Garnet will look to continue rolling in Saturday’s Haverford Invitational. The meet begins at 11a.m. at Haverford College.