At their second invitational of the season, the Cardinals crushed the competition on Saturday, Jan. 31, with the women’s squad securing 13 top-three finishes and the men’s crew capping eight.
The men featured three first-place winners, with LaDarius Drew ’15 speeding through the 60m, Luca Ameri ’15 leading the 600m with teammates Austin Dhillon ’18 and Tom Reid ’18 to sweep the event, and Reid hurdling 60m to first.
“In the 60m the last couple weeks, there has been an adjustment in my block starts,” Drew wrote in an email to The Argus. “It’s a rather minuscule thing to actually explain, but the difference made my starts about [four times] more powerful.”
In addition to other top-three performances in both this meet and meets prior to last weekend, Reid won first place for the first time for Wesleyan.
“All I can really say is that [the 60m hurdles] went very quickly, which I suppose is a good thing,” Reid wrote in an email to The Argus. “Coming off a little break in practice because my hamstring had been bothering me, I was feeling fresh and ready to work. Hurdles [are] about rhythm, and in that race I found one that worked.”
Nikita Rajgopal ’17 and Christina Hebner ’17 clinched first place for the women’s team in the 600m and 1000m, respectively. The squad’s two other first-place performances came from Alexis Walker ’16 in the 60m and the 4×400 relay pod consisting of Aidan Bardos ’17, Sydney Cogswell ’16, Melissa Luning ’15, and Ellie Martin ’16.
“It felt good to not only get first place but to also set a new personal record in the 60m dash,” Walker wrote in an email to The Argus. “It was a great win. The coaches have been big in my improvement. They encourage me to push myself while also helping me to improve my sprinting form. I was proud of both myself and the team. We competed hard and cheered each other on and the results showed.”
Although she normally runs the 1000m or the mile, Rajgopal led the Cardinals to close out the 600m, along with teammates Hannah Goodman ’16 and Rebecca Winkler ’16 right behind her.
“My plan going into the race was to try to run a strong, fast first lap and then just see how it felt from there,” wrote Rajgopal in an email to The Argus. “It ended up feeling pretty good, and it was even better since I was running it with two of my teammates who I train with every day. We’re definitely not sprinters, but I think we were all happy with how we did.”
Despite the relatively less contentious pool it faced last weekend, the women’s team continued to display its ability to clinch high-placing performances. In addition to the numerous wins at home, a few members of the squad traveled to the Boston University Terrier Classic Invitational to compete against teams from across all three NCAA Divisions. Most notably, Bardos finished 22nd out of 125 entrants in the 800m. Her racing placed her third among Div. III competitors and broke the Wesleyan record for the event and her personal best, the latter of which she hadn’t surpassed since her sophomore year of high school.
“I was very nervous for the meet at BU, as I had just recovered from the flu,” Bardos wrote in an email to The Argus. “It’s funny—I am usually very particular about my pre-race routine. I have oatmeal or PB&J for breakfast, and I have to do my warmup perfectly to feel confident for my race. Last Friday, I ate two cookies for breakfast, ran out of time to do my sprint drills, and almost had an asthma attack before my race! But, I was feeling very competitive, and because I was already feeling poor, I was less scared to feel pain in my race. Also, the BU track is banked and super bouncy.”
With this achievement locked down, Bardos is shifting gears to tackle another event for her next race.
“My coach wants me to run the 600m this weekend,” she wrote. “I am super excited about this: it’s shorter than the 800m and faster, and I used to run it in high school.”
The Cardinals are headed to Medford, Mass., this weekend where they will race in the Tufts Cupid Invitational. As the indoor season approaches its fifth week, Wesleyan’s accomplished athletes are looking to qualify for more meets later in the season.
“I’m going to keep giving my all in practice and listening to the skilled coaches,” Walker wrote. “They know what they are doing and any work we do in practice is just going to benefit me in the long run. I just hope to contribute as much as I can to the team whether it is points or support…. I want us to be proud of our performance throughout the season. Personally, I want to make it to Nationals again and earn another All-American trophy.”
Likewise, Drew is setting his sights on the championships farther down the road of this season.
“I’m practicing in a way that sets me up to run great times this weekend at Tufts,” Drew wrote. “It’s the regular workout we all do, but I make sure I check every piece of my being before each rep or set. Despite it being a week of high expectations, we’re not going to get any slack throughout the work week. So if [Assistant] Coach [Mike Simeone] says I need to do something, I’ll do it. Indoor Nationals would be nice, but Outdoor Nationals [are] priority [number one].”
In terms of team tactics, Rajgopal summarized the shift in training as the indoor season begins to close, writing with confidence and optimism about her squad’s possibilities for success.
“We’ve just hit a point in our season where we begin to change our training tactic,” Rajgopal wrote. “Before, we were working to build a strong base and so we’re running a lot of high mileage weeks. Now we’re getting into more event-specific training as we finish off the indoor season and head into spring. Our women’s middle distance squad is looking really strong, and so I’m looking forward to running the 4x800m relay in a few weeks. We last ran it at Little Three’s and were about a second off from breaking the school record, but based on the past couple meets, I think we can run significantly faster than we did a few weeks ago, which is really exciting.”
Despite the grizzly competition in the weeks to come, Reid feels optimistic about his chances of survival.
“The best part of running the hurdles is that it has practical applications in the real world,” he wrote. “If ever I encounter a series of barrels or bears or what have you, I am adequately prepared to hop right over them.”