Men’s Track and Field: Seniors aim for respect, berths to nationals

Most sports measure themselves by wins and losses. In track, where one hundredth of a second separates first from fifth, it’s personal times — not wins and losses — that keep runners up at night.

When the sun set on the Colonial Relays Saturday afternoon, and the performances of seniors Harry Miller, Colin Leak, Patterson Wilhelm and Jon Grey were weighed and measured, no one said, look how good these seniors are.

Instead it was, look how fast they are already.

“I thought we looked pretty good, especially since we still have two months left in the season,” Leak said. “[Head Coach Alex] Gibby has just been hammering us with workouts and keeping our mileage high, so we just have to pick our heads up and keep going.”

Even so, early-season fatigue didn’t have much of an effect on Leak. He took first in the 5,000-meter run Saturday. Leak was one of three Tribe runners to finish in the top five of the event, joined by his teammates Grey, Wilhelm and junior Luis Woodard.

“I’m pretty pleased with the race, it felt easy,” Leak said. “It was great not having to travel out west to places like Stanford or Mount Sac to run fast times. It was a great pace, real smooth. It was one of the easiest 5k’s I’ve ever run.”

Leak and Wilhelm also helped the College to a first-place finish in the 4×1500 relay Sunday. Wilhelm — an All-American in cross country in the fall — anchored the Tribe in that race, coming from behind during the last lap for the victory.

“When you’re racing you don’t know about the other team, but I could tell when I was behind him that he was struggling a little bit,” Wilhelm said. “I just waited to make my move at the end.”

Wilhelm’s final kick delighted his teammates, who were calling for him to strike a pose with the baton as he reached the finish line. The senior had other ideas.

“I heard three or four guys talking to me as I came around, telling me I’ve got the guy beat,” Wilhelm said with a smile. “There was a lot of showboating over the weekend by other teams, but we didn’t want to do that. You know, keep it classy.”

And fast. Classy and fast, like how Miller finished the steeplechase. The senior finished the race in 8 minutes, 53.54 seconds, the fastest time in the east this season.

The time also qualified Miller for the IC4A Championships, which is just one of the goals for this year’s seniors.

“We definitely would like to send four or five guys to nationals, definitely a lot to regionals,” Miller said. “Given how hard we’re working [and] how things are going in practice, things feel completely different this season.”

What once was exemplary has become the norm for the Tribe’s distance runners — what was once unimaginable now feels within reach.

“Guys are running times in workouts that five years ago would have been top times,” Miller said. “Some of these young guys are running stuff that would have been at the top five years ago, and now they are only solid, good times.”

That’s the goal for these seniors: not to run solid times for one regional meet, but to run times that qualify them on a national level. One of the goals heading into the outdoor track season was to improve the Tribe’s showing at nationals, where Grey was the only Tribe runner to compete during the indoor track season this winter.

“We want to send as many guys to regionals and nationals as possible,” Wilhelm said. “Jon will tell you — he went to nationals — and it sucks to go by yourself and only Gibby. Spending seven hours by yourself in a hotel room can get a little lonely.”

Grey , who finished second in both the 5,000 and 10,000-meter run, agrees. The goal is not how the Tribe does at the Colonial Invitational. For this year’s seniors, this season, the goal is where they finish overall.

“We want to keep having success,” Grey said. “We don’t just want to be a one–and-done team. We want to show people, we’ve been here for a while and we are here to stay.”


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