Jimmy Casey ‘22
In this week’s edition of the Spire’s Athlete Spotlight, I talked with Gabe Piepergerdes, a senior on the men’s Track & Field team. Throughout his three years on the Hill, Piepergerdes has been an elite member of the squad, improving year after year.
He holds two school records in the 400-meter hurdles (outdoor) and the 4x400m relay (indoor), and as a sophomore he became the first individual champion from Holy Cross at IC4As in nearly 50 years.
Unfortunately, after an impressive indoor season to start off his junior year, the outdoor portion of the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Because of this, Gabe is definitely excited to get back out there. He’s poised to have yet another great season for the Crusaders.
Below is my conversation with Gabe, where I asked him about life during COVID-19, his success at Holy Cross, his expectations for the season, and more.
Q: I’m sure quarantine was especially weird for you as an athlete. What’d you do in order to stay prepared for the season?
Yeah, testing positive for COVID was tough, especially since it was our first week back on campus as a team. I hadn’t seen most of my teammates and coaches since March of last year, so to get back to Holy Cross and then be put in isolation for 10 days was difficult while everyone else began training as a group again.
As an athlete, it was definitely difficult because I couldn’t practice, train, lift weights or any of that. I was restricted to my room off-campus, with just a couple of dumbbells. I kind of accepted that for 10 days I wasn’t going to be able to practice my block starts, do speed endurance workouts, or anything to advance my training. So, I guess in order to stay prepared for the season, I aimed my quarantine at eating healthy and staying mentally healthy as well. I figured if I couldn’t advance my training, that focusing on mental health and diet would be a productive use of my time.
Q: You’ve had a lot of success in your career here at Holy Cross, including holding two school records and becoming the first individual from Holy Cross to win at IC4As in almost 50 years. What was it like when you realized you had just made history?
Breaking the school record in the 400-meter hurdles and winning an IC4A championship are my two most memorable track and field accomplishments in my time here at Holy Cross.
When I broke the school record in the 400-meter hurdles, I was exhilarated. It was something that I had been plotting to achieve and go down in the record books for. You can ask my teammates; it was something that I talked about very often and always had my sights on. When I crossed the finish line that day, finishing 4th at Patriot League Championships, it was unbelievable to see the time pop up on the board and then having all of my teammates and friends congratulating me. I also think it was super special because it was at home, up at the Hart Center.
When I won the IC4A Championship in the 400-meter hurdles, it was a much different feeling. We were at Princeton and only a couple of my teammates were on the trip with me. It was absolutely down pouring the entire day and I actually threw up before getting in the starting blocks, but when I bolted across the finish line in first, it was not as exciting as I thought. Nobody was outside spectating the meet because of the rain, so there weren’t any fans, any crowd responses; just me taking home a gold medal all alone in the rain. It was almost like it didn’t happen. I don’t have any race videos of photos from that day either, so I try to remember that day often.
Q: Do you model your style after any professional runners? If so, what made you choose them?
I wouldn’t say that I model my style after any professional runners. As far as clothing, gear, training styles and technique I don’t specifically follow any particular athletes. I think I have my own sense of running style and uniform style.
The one thing I do is watch plenty of race film and championship videos of the great 400-meter hurdles, like Rai Benjamin and Karsten Warholm. It is super helpful to watch how they approach their races and to pick up on the little things they do that make them so great. These guys are Olympians, and everyone can learn a thing or two from them.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being on the track & field team?
My favorite part of being on the track & field team in the comradery. We have a very tight knit group of guys; everyone knows each other and gets along very well with one another. From team dinners in Kimball, to bowling outings, to seeing each other every day at practice, and leaving everything we have out on the track on meet days, the team always acts as one unit. We all have one common goal to succeed on the track and my teammates always pick each other up and hold everyone to the highest standard. These guys are my brothers and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Q: What’re some of your personal and team goals coming into your final year?
For my last and final outdoor track season here at Holy Cross, my personal goal is to reset my own school record in the 400-meter hurdles. Right now, my record is 52.61 seconds, but I’m hoping to run sub-52 this season. I think I have the tools and training to do so, so that’s what I have my sights on for the spring.
As for our team goals, I am hoping we can put together a really nice 4×400 relay team for Patriot League Championships. Last winter, during indoor season, Cam Lloyd, Sean Flaherty, Freddie O’Halloran, and I finished 4th in the 4×4 relay, which was our best finish in years. We will be revising our relay team this spring, hoping to drop a fast time at Patriots, where we can hopefully land on the podium (top 3).
Another thing I think we have been doing is developing our first-year teammates. The freshmen this year have come in with a lot of potential, but there are many technical aspects and strength aspects of their training that need to be improved. At practice we find ways to help improve little things they are doing wrong and in the weight room as well, helping to build up their overall strength. Our freshmen have a lot of potential and it should be our priority to help them develop to be the best athletes they can be.
I’d like to thank Gabe for allowing me the chance to interview him and giving some awesome answers. Good luck to him and the entire track & field program, we will be rooting for you!