One year ago, the men’s track and field team was preparing for a meet in which the team finished last place with only 22 points. Still stinging from this defeat, this year’s Bulldogs are gearing up for individual victories and a significant leap in the rankings.

This weekend, the Elis will be racing in the Indoor Heptagonal Championships hosted by Cornell at Barton Hall in Ithaca, NY. The preliminaries and semifinals will be held Saturday, along with some events that do not need prelims, like the 3,000-meter run. The rest of the events will be Sunday, testing many of the Elis in their ability to sustain a competitive state of mind and body. After narrowly winning the meet last year with 130.5 points, Cornell heads into this competition as a slight favorite because of its depth in many events. While Cornell as a team may be favored, most of the events at the 2004 Heps will be close contests in fields full of talented athletes.Ê

The sprints will be the first racing events held Saturday. In the 60-meter dash, there are six runners with recorded times within a tenth of a second of each other. Russell Kempf ’07 is currently ranked fifth in the Ivies and is close enough to the league leaders to have a shot at the top three. Two of the favorites are seniors, Dartmouth’s Mustafa Abdur-Rahim and Cornell’s Rahim Wooley. Abdur-Rahim is currently atop the league in this event, but Wooley is on his tail.

“I feel faster than I have ever felt before, and I believe that if I run to my potential this weekend, I will bid for one of the top places in my race,” Wooley said.

The 400-meter dash also has a very crowded field. Unfortunately for the Elis, Rob DeLaski ’06, currently second in the league, will not be racing in this event. This leaves league-leader Princeton’s Mike Kopp and Cornell’s Mike Nanaszko to battle it out for the top spot.

In the 500-meter dash, though, DeLaski will be racing for the gold. He will be up against freshman Lion Erison Hurtault who is ranked second in the Ancient Eight. DeLaski has more experience under his belt, though, so he has the edge.

In the middle distance events, the Elis’ strong racing corps expects to score. In the 800-meter run, Columbia’s Vincent Galgano is going for his third straight 800 title, but Courtney Jaworski of Penn and Matthew Boshart ’06 will give Galgano a run for his money. Captain Rob Lobue ’04, who is also an excellent half-miler, will be focusing on the 1,000-meter run. He is currently tied for second in the Ivies with Princeton’s Jonathan Kieliszak, who won the mile at Heps last year. Though this could be a race that comes down to the wire, Lobue said he is planning on winning it.

“I’m also going for the meet record, but we will see how the finals go,” he said.

In the distance events, many of the races feature matchups with old opponents. Josh Yelsey ’05 will be running the mile against Lion Gerry Groothius and Cantab Alisdair McLean-Foreman, two athletes he has raced against for years. Though Yelsey is ranked fourth in the league, he said he has a good shot at gold.

“I’m going to make it through the prelims with as little effort as possible and race well,” Yelsey said. “I’m not intimidated by anyone because there is no one who can run away from me.”

In the 3,000-meter run, Patrick Dantzer ’06 and Casey Moriarty ’05 will be racing against Columbia’s Steve Sundell, the favorite in the event. Both of these Elis have shots at scoring, though, if they race intelligently.

Sundell is also a threat in the 5,000-meter run, but Luke Meyer ’05 is not letting that stop him from racing his best. Since Sundell is most likely competing in both events, it could tire him out and give Meyer an advantage. The Eli, currently ranked third in the league, said he can run much faster than he has so far this season, because of tapering.

“My goal is to win, and I have a good shot to do that,” Meyer said. “Since no one will take it out fast, I will have to kick hard the last two miles and go for the win.”

In the relays, the Elis are looking to win the 4 x 800-meter race with the team of Bob Dwyer ’04, Yelsey, Boshart and Lobue. Lobue said the team is stronger and faster this year and should be able to beat Princeton. The Tigers won this event last year.

The field events have many strong competitors returning, but Cornell has a particularly deep squad of jumpers and pole vaulters. Last year, the Big Red racked up 22 points in the long jump alone, helping it secure victory. Elis hoping to score include Jordan Chapman ’05 and Matt Lachman ’07 in the pole vault, as well as Jihad Beauchman ’06 and Shomari Taylor ’06 in jumps.

Among the throwers, the Tigers have the deepest squad, including past champions Josh McCaughey and Rocky Craley. Nate Lawrie ’04, though, has a shot to take some points away from Princeton if he performs his best in the shot put and the weight throw.

Regarding team finishes, Cornell’s Wooley said he thinks his squad will win overall because of strong team spirit.

“We have decided to start calling ourselves the ‘C-Unit’ to remind us that we must all act as one unit in order to bring home the trophy,” Wooley said. “We realize that there are a lot of talented people in each event, and we can’t be distracted by that.ÊWe might not win a lot of events, but our strength comes in our depth.”

Lobue said he does not think the Elis can compete for first since they have a smaller team than schools like Cornell. He said that a third place finish is possible if everyone performs at their top ability level.

“Third would be huge for us since we finished in dead last [in 2003],” Lobue said. “Not to downplay any other events, it is imperative for us to score well in the 400 and up because we can put up a lot of points there. Hopefully we can get some surprises in the field events and jumps too.”

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