PASADENA, Calif. (Feb. 6, 2015) – Two returning scorers a the SCIAC Championships, a program record holder and an individual NCAA qualifier form the nucleus of this year's Caltech men's track and field team, which is setting its sights on breaking through at both the conference and national levels in 2015.
"This group is already showing the drive to discover just what their potential really is," first-year head coach Ben Raphelson said. "Our role as coaches is to channel that to productive outcomes through smart training and a supportive environment, which we see happening every day. While everyone might not experience a breakthrough season this year, everyone can contribute to an environment that makes breakthroughs possible for the whole team."
The squad lost very little from last year and, if the cross country core can translate its success in the fall while the improvements others have made in the preseason make their expected impact, this could be a special season for the Beavers.
"Breaking records is always nice, and we expect to be close to several, but we're setting our sights higher as both individuals and a team," first-year head coach Ben Raphelson said. "Focusing on a particular mark or time could limit our potential. If we have an environment where student-athletes come together to find out just how good they can be, breakthroughs will usually follow."
The core of the cross country team that experienced such success in the fall will fill out a deep distance group, led by senior Eric Martin (The Woodlands, Texas / College Park) and junior Aditya Bhagavathi (West Windsor, N.J. / West Windsor-Plainsboro North). Martin led the Beavers with a third-place qualifying time in the 800-meter run at the SCIAC Championships, although he placed sixth in the finals, and could threaten the 800m and 1500m program records – possibly the two most impressive marks in the Caltech record book – and is a threat to score at SCIACS in either event. Bhagavathi, who finished just one second out of the scoring in the 1500m last year, will look to carry the momentum from his NCAA qualification and program record in cross country to a breakthrough spring, as the junior chopped more than a full minute off his personal best 8k time.
"Eric is our most experienced and successful runner, while Aditya has performed better in track than cross country over his first two years," Raphelson said. "Eric has really embraced some tougher training and is eager to break through at the conference and national levels, while Aditya, obviously, could be ready for a tremendous breakthrough. They're great training partners too, which has really set the tone for the team and helped them make great gains."
Senior Jared Forte (Lake Elsinore, Calif. / Elsinore), who ended the cross country season as the team's number-two finisher, is also primed for a memorable season after competing in three events at SCIACs in 2014, finishing 13th in the 800m, 19th in the 1500m, and 22nd in the 5000m.. Healthier than ever entering his final year, Forte will be a key piece in the mid-distance events, where his blend of talents could set him up for success as the Beavers' main 3,000m steeplechase competitor.
"Jared is tremendously talented and showed some flashes of huge potential in the fall," Raphelson said. "As a senior now, he has matured and is focused on doing the small things that will allow him to stay healthy and realize that potential."
Rounding out such a strong distance field is the quintet of juniors Elliot Simon (Alexandria, Va. / Thomas Jefferson) and Alex Anemogiannis (Atlanta, Ga. / Marist School), freshmen John McDaniel (Weston, Mass. / The Rivers School) and Christopher Haack (New York City, N.Y. / The Browning School) and senior Juan Adame, who placed 31st in the 1500m last spring.
"This group has a very motivated mindset and is extremely focused on seeing what they can do," Raphelson said.
Senior Victor Duan (Darien, Ill. / Illinois Math and Science Acad.) leads a sprints group that also includes junior Kevin Yei (Carlsbad, Calif. / La Costa Canyon) and freshmen Daniel Gawerc (Houston, Texas / Memorial) and Alec Ho (Vancouver, Wash. / Columbia River). Duan dashed his way to 22nd place in the 100m and 25th in the 200m at SCIACs. Yei will focus on the 200m and 400m while Gawerc and Ho will fill out the shorter sprints, with Ho also a candidate for hurdles.
"Victor is another guy who is setting up for a real breakthrough in the 100m," Raphelson said. "All four have made some great progress honing their technique in our first few weeks, and we're excited to see how that will translate to racing."
The program record holder in the javelin since 2012, senior Ben Grabowski (Lake Forest Park, Wash. / Inglemoor) headlines an equally strong field group. The three-sport student-athlete (water polo and diving) placed 12th in last year's championship meet and eighth as a sophomore and will look to score at the meet in his final year.
"Ben is hoping to develop his power on the runway while refining his technique," Raphelson said. "We feel that he is one of the best javelin throwers in the conference and are excited to see what company his improvements put him in."
Junior Morgan Hill (San Diego, Calif. / Wasatch Acad.) will be Caltech's primary hammer thrower and is yet another Beaver in position to experience a major breakout. Sophomore Jordan Bonilla (Weston Fla. / Cypress Bay), another three-sport student-athlete (water polo, swimming) will also compete in the hammer after finishing 16th in the event at SCIACs, where he also placed 20th in the javelin.
"Morgan has absorbed a lot in the few weeks we've been underway – he's really a student of the event and is clearly enjoying himself," Raphelson said. "His progress in practice has been impressive as he buys into the technical approach we are emphasizing. We're not going to set any limits on how far we think he can throw. Jordan has a similar passion for the event and could make similar improvements."
Junior Anup Kishore (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) will be welcomed back enthusiastically once he returns from the fencing season, as he placed sixth in the pole vault to score at the SCIAC Championships last year.
"Anup is another versatile athlete who has competed in a lot of events over the years, but is obviously very important to us in the pole vault," Raphelson said.
The Beavers' intense focus on their end goals is reflected in their approach to this year's schedule. The main focal points will be a trio of SCIAC Multi-Dual Meets, with the SCIAC Championships at the beginning of May serving as their culminating team experience. The indoor Tufts Last Chance Invitational in early March and outdoor Mt. Sac Invitational in mid-April will offer some the chance to compete with a wide range of elite athletes, including Olympians, Division I and II schools and peer institutions. Following SCIACs, a select few may continue competing with an eye on qualifying for nationals, or hitting particular individual marks.
"Everyone has been bringing a very focused mindset to practice that has allowed us to accomplish a lot already," Raphelson said. "This environment of wanting to find out how good we can be leads to breakthroughs. We are looking forward to showing that in the coming weeks. There's no question that we have the talent to break through at the conference and national levels, and paired with the work ethic we're showing this could be an exciting season."
Raphelson and the Beavers will open the season with the annual Caltech All-Comers Meet this Saturday, Feb. 7.