On Feb. 20, the GDS indoor track and field team competed against some of the highest ranked runners and jumpers from D.C. in the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) Indoor Track and Field Championships. The women’s team placed seventh and the men’s team placed third.
The Hoppers finished third in a number of races, including the men’s high jump, men’s 4×200 meter relay, men’s 4×400 meter relay and women’s 4×800 meter relay. To prepare for the meet, the team took a “lighter week” in comparison to their normal practice routine, according to senior Leo Cooper. After a week of less intense training, he said that the team was fresher come racetime.
One of the Hoppers’ top performances was in the women’s 4×400 meter relay. The team, comprised of senior Nadia Fairfax, sophomore Anissa McGinnis, sophomore Ellie Kessler and sophomore Talia Berger, finished third out of six teams. “Right before the four-by-four, we realized we were going to be in a really fast heat and so we were a little nervous and discouraged about it,” Fairfax said. “But I think [the team] put in a really great effort and I am just really proud of the work that we all did.”
Cooper set a new personal record for his time in the mile, and expressed his gratitude for his teammates’ efforts. According to Cooper, several team members were unable to attend the meet because it took place on President’s Day. “It was still a spectacular meet,” he said. “Besides [personal records], people put great efforts across the board.” Since certain athletes were absent because of vacation or other outside obligations, some people on the team, including Cooper, participated in more of the meet’s events than they typically would.
No outside spectators were allowed in the George Mason Field House due to the university’s COVID policy, but there was a buzz inside the bubble audible from the parking lot. Noise was generated throughout each of the races, coming from teammates’ conversations, cheering and announcements made over the sound system.
When not participating in an event, team members could be found enthusiastically cheering on their teammates. “We don’t normally get a lot of fans at track and cross country meets,” senior Noah Shelton said. “Most of our cheering is from the team and I think that we have done a good job with that today.”
For some Hoppers, it was the first indoor track meet of their time on the high school team. Junior Luke Cohen spoke with the Bit about the team’s first-timers. “It has been inspiring to see everyone working so hard and reaching those goals that they set for themselves,” he said of newer runners.
After all the events concluded, the team’s head coach, Anthony Belber, talked with the athletes and praised their consistency, even if that meant not finishing on the podium in some races. “A lot of people out here, if they are not a star, they may not stick with it,” he said in his speech to the team. “If they are not a star, they may not push themselves. But what I see from you guys week after week is you are pushing yourselves; you are challenging yourself to be better.”
In Belber’s speech, he also praised the team’s high placement in many of the relay races and overall improvement over the course of the season.
After the meet’s award ceremony, Belber described the mission of the winter indoor track season to the Bit. “We do want to be as competitive as we can—we are practicing how to compete at a championship level meet—but we know that, ultimately, we are training for the spring season, for the future,” he said.
Most important for Belber, the team has created a sense of newfound optimism after having to recover from a long span of the sport being limited by the pandemic. “I have loved the resilience we have had after a couple years of COVID, to see how strong we are after all those potential interruptions,” he said.