For most Ithaca College students, the end of April is the signal to hit the books and prepare for exams.
But while most students prepare to go home, for the men’s track and field team, the end of classes also means something entirely different — championship time.
In the next month, the Bombers will compete in six different meets, which include as many as four during the final week of classes and the week after commencement.
These upcoming meets include the New York State Collegiate Track Conference, Eastern College Athletic Conference and NCAA Championships. As a team coming off of its fifth straight Empire 8 conference title outdoors earlier this month, the Blue and Gold are determined to close out the year on a winning note.
When it comes to April and May, the Bombers know how to put their foot on the gas. In the past six years, the Bombers have never finished worse than eighth of up to 15 teams at the NYSCTC meet, winning the past two, and finishing in the top 10 in each of the past three ECAC Championships.
Head Coach Jim Nichols said a large part of the team’s success is the example the seniors have set on the track.
“Our senior leaders have been outstanding,” Nichols said. “They have not lost an Empire 8 Championship at Ithaca College, indoors or outdoors, and they’ve won an ECAC Championship, which we’d never done before.”
Once the championship meets draw near, the team’s practices take on a different form. Practices become much more about training for specific events and saving as much energy as possible.
Senior and co-captain Jeff Wetmore said the Blue and Gold should be particularly successful this year because of the 14 seniors on the squad.
“We’ve just got some really good athletes,” Wetmore said. “We have a really deep team, lots of people are able to score and lots of guys who’ve been on our team for the past four years.”
It’s all part of tapering, a process common in many sports where athletes reduce their exercise leading up to important competitions.
But during the week before states, the team almost takes an opposite approach. Senior Kyle Devins said jumpers start working on runs and jumping technique while sprinters focus on block starts and perfecting handoffs.
“From the beginning of the year when practice starts, you’re just building up and building up with the difficulty of the workouts throughout the indoor and the outdoor season, Devins said. “But when championship season starts, we tend to back off.
Devins said unlike football and soccer where players can study their opponents, each athlete’s focus has to be on what he can control individually in his event.
“I don’t pay too much attention to how far my competition is jumping or anything like that,” Devins said. “I just try to focus on what I can do to jump the farthest.”
Even with that singular focus, Nichols said it’s still the team’s competitiveness that has allowed it to do well in the postseason, and that will give them a chance to succeed this year.
“We’ve got a great group of competitors, and that’s the greatest asset that we have,” Nichols said. “They don’t like to lose.”