The men’s indoor track team erased big deficits and long odds to finish second at the New York State Collegiate Track Conference Championships on Saturday.
Seeded 50 points out of first place at the start of the meet, the Bombers found themselves trailing host St. Lawrence University by 15.5 points at the end of Friday. The Bombers turned it around with top-five finishes in the sprints, jumps and relays to finish just 4.5 points behind St. Lawrence. The second-place finish was the best result for the men at state championships in the past decade.
Senior sprinters Jeff Wetmore and Max Orenstein led the way for the Bombers on Saturday as they finished first and second in the 200-meter dash with Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship-qualifying times of 22.33 and 22.39, respectively.
Orenstein said while the team exceeded expectations, it could have fared even better.
“We were happy to finish the way that we did,” Orenstein said. “But afterwards, when we saw how close it was, we looked back and realized we could’ve actually won. So we were a little disappointed about that.”
Both runners qualified in the 55-meter dash, with Orenstein finishing second and Wetmore in third, and they were part of the winning 4×400-meter relay squad along with freshman Brennan Edmonds and sophomore Chris Mastrosimone.
Senior thrower Paul Helm, who finished 11th in the weight and 14th in shot put, said after a disappointing showing on the first day, the South Hill squad refocused on the next day’s events.
“A lot of the guys didn’t feel like they had their best events and weren’t performing the way they wanted to,” Helm said. “So we did have to calm down the first night, and we did that pretty well. We came into the second day really calm and relaxed.”
The Bombers posted 13 ECAC-qualifying times during the meet and will send 13 athletes to the championships in New York City.
Orenstein said a historic performance such as what the team accomplished this past weekend is still special for the seniors.
“Every time we do something that hasn’t been done in a while it means a lot,” Orenstein said. “We’ve worked real hard for that kind of stuff. So it’s always fun to know that you’re doing well and doing well for Ithaca.”
Helm said the Bombers, despite being seeded so far behind, believed they could make some noise at state championships, and the team’s calm composure helps every athlete focus — especially in long meets.
“A lot of teams show up yelling and screaming, but we kind of don’t,” Helm said. “We show up and get our spot in the field house, and we warm up when we’re supposed to warm up.”
Wetmore said the South Hill squad’s training changes with the significance of the upcoming meets.
“We do lots of harder workouts with more volume in the beginning of the season,” Wetmore said. “And then as the end of the season comes we shrink that down and do less volume, and we don’t do workouts as close to meets.”
The Bombers had an opportunity to gain even more points in the 400-meter dash; however, Head Coach Jim Nichols said he made decisions, such as resting Orenstein, Edmonds and Mastrosimone, that may have affected the overall outcome. But he said his choices where in the best interests of the team.
“[My decisions] were for the weekend coming up for ECACs and for hopefully getting some people to qualify for nationals the week after that and for our outdoor season,” Nichols said. “Versus, throwing everything at it this past weekend and having that cost us a couple weeks down the road.”
The team used this past week to recharge. The Bombers did some light interval training drills at Barton Hall at Cornell University from Monday through yesterday and then had today off to rest. Several members have been dealing with injuries and sickness during the past month and used the past few days to focus on recovery.
Orenstein said the South Hill squad could surprise people again in New York.
“I realistically think we can win, especially since we won last year,” Orenstein said. “Last year we didn’t have Kyle Devins jumping, and he’s one of our best athletes. I’d give us a 90 percent chance of finishing in the top five.”