While the Georgetown men’s track team competed in dozens of events across two states this past weekend, five Hoyas in particular stood out in the 800 meters at Yale’s Giegengack Invitational. The solid performance showcased a range of athletes on the Blue and Gray middle distance squad.
The Hoyas were led by an unfamiliar face in the event. Redshirt junior Toby Ulm, who usually competes in the 400m and 500m during the indoor season, rode the coattails of freshman Billy Ledder’s pacing through the first 550m, then burst ahead to take the lead for good. He went on to win the event with a time of 1:49.81.
“He’s a gamer,” Director of Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Patrick Henner said. “I don’t care if you put him in a marathon, he’s going to give it a great effort.”
Ulm’s athleticism and competitiveness gives him the range to compete in multiple events in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“Our primary goal for him is to run a great 400m hurdles by the end of the year. … The 800m is a tool for that,” Henner said.
Ulm’s 800m time was the 17th-best in the NCAA this season and showed he is capable of competing on the national level. He will run his second 800m of the season this weekend at Indiana University, with hopes of hitting an NCAA qualifying time.
Ulm’s was not the only noteworthy contribution: Often-overlooked sophomore Brian Hencke finished fifth in the event with a solid time of 1:51.88.
“I think he’s a good example of what our program is all about,” Henner said. “We knew he was talented all along, but he wasn’t a big-name recruit. I think he’s made just a huge step up from where he was last year.”
Hencke’s improved workouts and attitude have turned him into one of the better middle-distance runners for the Hoyas. His work ethic has translated into considerable success these past few meets, as he set personal records in the 1,000m run at the Penn State National Invitational and in the 800m last weekend.
“He’s starting to race with a lot more relaxation and confidence. He really listens [to corrections]. That’s the kind of [person] we need to rely on,” Henner said.
On the other hand, junior Theon O’Connor turned in a disappointing performance in the event, finishing ninth with a time of 1:53.47.
“I think Theon was just a little too aggressive early,” Henner said. “He also has to learn to keep his composure and not fall apart a little bit better.”
Unlike Hencke, O’Connor was a highly touted recruit, but he has yet to reach his full potential this season. Although it hasn’t shown in the results, O’Connor has put together one of his best stretches of training, working hard with Ulm week in and week out.
“I think Theon’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. He just now has to find the right combination of relaxation and aggressiveness,” Henner said.
While O’Connor’s season has gotten off to a slow start, Henner and the coaching staff have maintained their patience with the middle distance talent.
“[His performance is] not a huge concern because he wants to run well,” Henner said. “From my experience as a coach, someone who wants to run well will end up running well.”
Senior John Maloy and graduate student Dan Leyh finished in the top 10 of the event as well. Maloy placed sixth with a time of 1:52.73, while Leyh finished 10th with a time of 1:54.16.
Both runners are hardworking veterans whose commitment to the program is oftentimes not captured by the results. Maloy has been a key part of many Georgetown 4x800m and distance medley relays in the past; his personal record of 1:49.24 is the 12th-best indoor 800m in school history.
Leyh has made contributions in both the 800m and 1,000m in the past for the Hoyas, including a seventh-place finish in the 1,000m at the 2010 Big East indoor championships.
-Senior Chris Kinney continued his methodical march toward the NCAA automatic qualifying time in the 60m hurdles, breaking his own school record for the second weekend in a row with a time of 7.75 seconds in the finals of the event. Kinney’s time was good for third place, behind Texas sophomore Keiron Stewart’s 7.68s — the best ran in the NCAA to date — and USC junior Oscar Spurlock’s 7.71s. Junior Biyerem Okengwu also had his best race of the season in the event, finishing ninth with a time of 8.13s.
-The women’s DMR team of junior Lauren Borduin, senior Deidra Sanders, freshman Chelsea Cox and sophomore Rachel Schneider ran a solid 11:14 to finish eighth in a competitive field. Borduin came through the 1200m in 3:29; Sanders ran a 55s 400m leg; Cox ran a superb 2:06 on her first 800m, and Schneider brought it home for the Hoyas with a 4:41 on the anchor mile. Currently sitting 11th on the NCAA indoor list, the time might not be enough to secure a trip to nationals. Look for the Hoyas to try to run another fast DMR later in the season to move up the all-important list.
-Schneider and Borduin returned on day two of the meet and competed well in the mile, with Schneider taking third in 4:44 and Borduin taking seventh in 4:49. Both times were indoor PRs in the open mile for the duo. Schneider’s time is the fifth best in the Big East this season.
-Junior London Finley had an encouraging weekend, running well in all three of her events. Finley showed signs that she has returned to form after a slow start to the season, leading off the 4x400m relay with a 55s split and running a solid 55.58s in the open 400m. The Hoya sprinter and hurdler also looked good in the 60m hurdles, running a time of 8.55s to finish first in her section.
-The men’s distance crew had a good showing in the mile at Yale. While the 2:01 pacing through the 800m mark was a little too fast for the Hoyas at this point in the season, senior Ayalew Taye finished with a 4:05.62 to win the event. Redshirt freshmen Dylan Sorensen and Bobby Peavey finished second and fifth, respectively, with times of 4:08 and 4:11. Billy Ledder turned in a 4:10.51, narrowly edging out Peavey for the fourth-place spot.
Hoya staff writer Dave Baran contributed to this report.