Hail to the Hoyas!

A generation ago, today used to be a holiday referred to as Washington's Birthday. In the half-lifetime since of my association with Georgetown athletics, I have seen and experienced most of what transpires in the world of Hoya sports. This past weekend however, I took part in something I had never before attended. I spent two days at the BIG EAST indoor track and field championships in Akron, Ohio.

At the risk of alienating most everyone who reads this, I will unequivocally state that if you have never been to a conference track championship meet (and it is safe to say that 99% of all Hoyas fit in that category), you should never assert that you have seen the entirety of Georgetown athletics. In fact, I might even go further, to say that if you have been only to a conference track championship meet, you will come closer to all there is to experience in the world of Hoya sports than at any other athletic event.


What I don't know about track & field could fill volumes. I got a crash course in one 24-hour period, as I watched close to 30 competitions. Think about that. What if, in the span of 12 hours, you could attend and witness in succession the last two minutes of every basketball game from a single season?

BIG EAST track and field championships: an indoor sport spectacle


It was truly something to behold. Start with the 16-ring circus-like atmosphere that would freak out the button-down management of the MCI Center. Somehow, it works quite well, thank you very much. There are no coaching timeouts allowed. Once begun, the meet lumbers forward with a steady but unyielding cadence.

Equipped with my trusty Nikon, and a staff pass to enter the sacred areas reserved for coaches and competitors, I gaped like a little kid at his first carnival. There were no TV cameras, no Hoya Blue cheering sections, no student band; just small groupings of parents, family and friends. Despite the abundance of grandstand seating, this was a meet geared for competitors, not for spectators. Yet great spectacle and high drama were also in abundant supply.

The stakes are heightened right off the bat with one team challenging 15 others all at once. But that's just the beginning of the three-dimensional chess game, aka coaching track and field. The grand prize is the team championship, but there are so many recorded measurements that success is often judged in smaller increments. The top eight finishers score points. You could actually win the team crown by scoring in more events, even if you don't win a single one. The team title is about breadth and depth and some schools have built-in advantages, viz., state-supported schools with Div. I-A football programs.

As in all sports, the scoring rules and conventions are arbitrary, but they define the sport and how it is conducted. The Hoya women finished second as a team, yet they did not have the competitors to enter many of the field events. Looking at just the track events, they scored highest among the other teams.


Brian Dalpiaz '07, lead-off leg of the third-place distance medley squad

Distance medley victors Nichole Torpey '07, Meghan O'Neil '06, Liz Maloy '07, Lise Ogrodnick `09

Champions of the 4x800 relay: Maggie Infeld '08, Meghan O'Neil '06, Christine Whalen '09, Avril Ogrodnick `09

Chris Bonner '06 stands tall, 400m champion


For the athlete, the pinnacle is capturing an individual championship. But here too, there is more to be claimed: qualifying times for the post-season; meet records; facility records; and personal bests.

For me, how thrilling it was to witness the transformation of a bunch of Georgetown students, goofing on the team bus just hours before, into superbly conditioned athletes, not fully cognizant of the beauty in their own grace, power, and speed. As I enjoyed watching their athletic mastery, I reflected on the words of former GU president, Tim Healy, SJ that as spectators, we ". . . share in mastery's great gift, pride; pride in what a young man or woman can do, the leap of the heart in surprise and pleasure at great skill greatly used; at its deepest and best, a leap of the heart towards God himself."

The meet announcer called each race in an informative, almost conversational style, shouting out mid-race developments right down to the finish line. So it was, on more than one occasion during the festivities, that I heard his booming voice reciting the order of runners on the track; then suddenly a spine-tingling ". . . and here come the Hoyas!" as one of the blue and gray clad runners made a move to the front. Never prouder to be from Georgetown, I felt my own heart leap even as a lump lodged in my throat.

Here come the Hoyas! as Liz Maloy '07 closes in on frontrunners in the distance medley relay


As we headed back to DC on the bus, exhaustion set in for most, if not all. Kudos goes to (former BIG EAST champions and now assistant coaches) Monica Hargrove '04 and Jesse O'Connell '03. In addition to helping to coach over 16 hours of track and field from start to finish, they both recorded door-to-door PB's on a laptop, for viewing all but 20 minutes of the complete second season of the TV hit show: 24.

Hoya Saxa!

Matt Debole '08 surrenders baton to classmate Brandon Bonsey in the Hoyas' 4x800 third-place finish

Avril Ogrodnick '09 took early lead in 4x800 relay for the victorious Hoyas

Rod Koborsi '06 runs with the pack early in the 3000m race en route to a third-place finish


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