Looking Back at 2015-16 season

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Before we return to our indoor season, we need to look back for a little bit.  These next few days, we will be sharing some of the highlights and announcing our Athletes of the Year from the 2015 to 2016 cross country/track and field seasons.  Shouldn’t we have done this sooner?  Sure, we should have, but sometimes, you appreciate what we witnessed more once we step away for a little bit and look back over that time period.

Like what?

Well, here are some highlights.

  • The Columbia men really shined during the cross country season.  They won the HepsXC title on their home course in a close battle with Penn (65 to 69).  Their top runner – Aubrey Myjer – had a breakthrough season after battling so many injuries in previous years. Myjer finished third at HepsXC.  While the team missed out at a NCAA team berth, they rebounded with winning both the IC4A team and individual title (Jack Boyle) at Van Cortlandt Park.  The Columbia women won the ECAC title.
  • Elizabeth Bird cruised to the individual victory at HepsXC, and with two other teammates finishing in the top 7, it was easy for Princeton to reclaim the title by 23 points.
  • Penn’s Thomas Awad defended his HepsXC title, becoming the first man since Ben True did so in 2005-2006.
  • Eight individual qualifiers and two teams made it to NCAA Cross Country Championships, and two individuals walked home with All-American honors: Brown’s Natalie Schudrowitz (23rd) and Awad (14th)    Dartmouth’s Dana Giordano was honored as the Northeast Region Athlete of the Year for winning the Regional meet.
  • At Indoor Heps at Cornell’s Barton Hall, Cornell went into Day 2 of the competition with the most number of final qualifiers (19) and top Day 1 score.  Many expected them to pull away for the team title.  But the Princeton men (who were behind by 7 points, 3rd in the team standings and only got 14 finalists through to Day 2) denied the Big Red that chance.  They defended their title by essentially having a perfect Day 2, beating Cornell by 23 points.
  • Nine HepsNation undergrads, one alum, and two former HepsNation athletes qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships.  Five athletes returned home with First-Team honors – Awad (3rd in the mile); Princeton’s Cecilia Barowski (6th in the 800m); Harvard’s Nikki Okwelogu (3rd in the shot put) and Courtney Smith (8th in the 5km); and Dartmouth’s Kaitlin Whitehorn (7th in the high jump).  Cornell’s James Gowans (mile) and Rudy Winkler (weight throw), Columbia’s Rob Napolitano (mile), and Yale’s Frances Schmiede (mile) all earned Second-Team honors.
  • Three HepsNation alumni competed at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Ore.
  • The Outdoor Heps were held at Princeton’s Weaver Stadium.  Cornell wanted revenge for what happened at Indoor Heps on their home track, so they not only won the team title on Princeton’s track, they won it with a new conference record – 211 points.
  • Harvard continued to dominate the women’s conference scene as they won both the indoor and outdoor titles for the fourth straight year.  Their Class of 2016 graduated with an undefeated record at a conference championships.
  • Twenty-three undergrads and three alumni qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships (including 2 relays).  Fourteen of these athletes earned First-Team All-American honors.
  • Twenty-seven people won their first ever individual Heps title at either the Indoor or Outdoor Heps Championships: Brown’s Zach Emrich, Schudrowitz, O’Sha Williams; Columbia’s Brittney Wade and Anna Williams; Cornell’s Austin Jamerson, Caroline Kellner, Zach Menchaca, Leena Morris, Bobby Plummer, and Ben Rainero; Dartmouth’s Joey Chapin, Corey Muggler, and Helen Sclachtenhaufen; Harvard’s Paige Kouba, and Gabrielle Thomas; Penn’s Thomas Pitt; Princeton’s Xavier Bledsoe, Chris Cook, Josh Ingalls, Noah Kauppila, August Kiles, Greg Leeper, Ray Mennin, and Kennedy O’Dell; and Yale’s Shannon McDonnell and James Randon.
  • Seven indoor and 14 outdoor conference marks were rewritten over the course of 2016 – 16 of those marks were among the women’s events.  One of those marks is the American Collegiate Record (men’s discus).
  • Twelve athletes and two coaches made it to the ultimate athletics stage – the 2016 Rio Olympics.  Three of these athletes made it to the finals in their respective events, while another athlete reminded the world of what “the Olympic Spirit” looks like.
  • Many HepsNation alumni had Olympic dreams and kept chasing them until the Olympic Trials cutoff in June.  For many, it was a kind of heartbreak.
  • Brown alum Daveed Diggs kept winning awards on the arts scene for his spectacular performance in Broadway’s most recent breakout hit “Hamilton”, including a Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Musical.

Did we miss some things?  I’m sure we did, but this is just a snapshot of what was accomplished this past year.  We’ll provide more detail on some of these things in the next few days as we announce our Athletes of the Year.  Enjoy the memories, and here’s to what we did and what is still yet to come!

I need to send my thanks out to L. Kelsey Armstrong, Nell Smith, and Becky Wexler for all of their work this past year.  They diligently followed the competition results throughout the year, helping with the meet recaps, Heps previews, Olympian bios, and other news that popped up throughout the year.  In short – they are amazing and some of the best volunteers one could ask for.

photo by Bill Shearn

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