EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the predicted high temperatures for Saturday, the men’s 10km has been moved from 4:45pm to 8:15pm. The women’s 10km will follow at 9:00pm.
The 5km will be headlined by Penn junior standout Tommy Awad. At the Stanford Invitational back in April, Awad dropped an incredible 13:33.29. That performance is the 2nd best in Ivy history, leads the league by almost 30 seconds, and marks him the clear favorite for this event. Behind him competing for coveted points is a slew of runners just hovering over that 14-minute barrier. With 4 of the top 6 scorers from last year’s Outdoor Heps having graduated, there could be a number of new faces in scoring positions this year. Look for Harvard junior Tom Purnell, Princeton senior Mike Mazzaccaro, and Yale junior Kevin Dooney to be up in the mix of things. Dartmouth junior Curtis King has 5th best time heading into this weekend with a season’s best of 14:07.26. As the top returner from the race last year (3rd) and the reigning Indoor Heps 5km Champion, King should definitely be considered a threat to the title. Recent Indoor Heps 5km runner up Matt McDonald (Princeton, Sr.), who finished 7th in the race a year ago, has yet to run this distance this season, but has competed at 10,000m and could toe the line as well.
The longest event of the meet, the grueling 25-lap 10km run, could offer much excitement as the top 7 runners have all dipped below 30:00 this season. The league is led by Columbia junior Tait Rutherford with his lifetime best time of 29:19.17 set at the Stanford Invitational. Right on his heels sits King (29:24.06) and fellow Dartmouth junior Brian Masterson (29:28.54). Rounding out the top 6 is a trio of seniors – Princeton teammates Sam Pons and McDonald, and Columbia’s Ben Eversole. McDonald, who finished 7th in this event last year, is the top returner amongst those who have competed the 10km so far this season. However, as recent years have shown, the 10km is an event that typically features many seasonal debuts. Although Awad currently has no mark in this event, he must be considered a serious contender should he choose to race as he is the reigning champion. Similarly, Dooney, who was 3rd at the Heps a year ago, has run 14:06.46 in the 5km this season, but has yet to run a 10km this year. He could wind up in the race as well. As is the case in the 5km, four of the top 6 scorers from last year have since graduated, leaving things relatively open.
The final distance event of the meet is one that, by nature, offers a high level of intrigue and excitement – the 3000m steeplechase. Adding in the fact that 5 of the top 6 steeplers heading into this weekend have scored in this event at the Heps before makes things even more interesting. The current league leader, Penn sophomore Nick Tuck, is the only one who hasn’t yet scored in this event, but his 8:51.46 lifetime best set a week ago at the Princeton Open shows he is clearly ready to change that. His teammate junior Brendan Smith has also gone under 9 minutes so far this season (8:55.47) and is the reigning champion from a year ago. Their battle for the individual title and a potentially massive haul of team points could make things really exciting. But look for the two of them to have company as the next 4 best runners all have lifetime best under 9 minutes as well – Duncan Tomlin (Yale, Jr.), Connor Herr (Cornell, Jr.), David Melly (Cornell, Sr.) and Connor Martin (Princeton, Sr.). Also hoping to make a splash for the first time will be Penn freshman Ross Wilson who currently has the 7th best time in the league (9:06.67). But as is the case for every steeplechase race – there are no guarantees and it’s not over until you clear the final barrier – so expect the unexpected.
– Rachel Sorna
top image by Doug Austin; steeple image by Bill Shearn