Big Red trio ready to take on track & field nationals

Varun Oberai '21, Jeremiah Swett '21, Gia Pisano '21 to compete at historic Hayward Field against the country's best.  

Brian Muldoon
June 29, 2021

Varun Oberai '21 (from left), Jeremiah Swett '21 and Gia Pisano '21 will compete in the high school nationals track and field meet this week at the University of Oregon.

The season is still marching on for three of Exeter’s most decorated track and field athletes. Jeremiah Swett ’21, Varun Oberai ’21 and Gia Pisano ‘21 will travel this week to historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon to compete against the best field the country has to offer in the 2021 Nike NSAF Outdoor National Championships.

Swett will compete in the discus on Wednesday, June 30, while Oberai and Pisano will race in the boys 5,000 meters and girls 5,000 meters, respectively, on Saturday, July 3.

All three excelled in their careers at Exeter, with their names attached to several program records. Just this spring, all three of them etched their names into the record book again: Swett broke the school and New Hampshire state discus record with a toss of 190 feet, 1 inch; Oberai smashed the 3,000 meter school record with a time of 8:31.00; Pisano added a program record of her own in the 3,200 meters with a time of 10:44.95.

Big meets are a familiar scene for the trio, and they will lean on their experience to cap their prep careers with one big final performance at a stadium that just finished hosting the U.S. Olympic trials.

Oberai, who will go on to compete collegiately at Yale, competed at Indoor Nationals with the Big Red distance medley relay team during his lower year, won an Eastern States title in the indoor mile during his upper year, and was in New York ready to compete in the Indoor Nationals when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a cancellation in 2020.

Swett, who will continue his throwing career at Harvard, placed seventh overall in the Emerging Elite Nationals in the spring of his lower year, competed at the Eastern States Indoor Championships and won a New England Indoor title in the shot put in his upper year.

Pisano, who will go on to run at the University of Southern California, qualified for the Eastern States Indoor Championships in the two-mile during her lower year, was a top-20 finisher at the New England Championships as an upper, and will make her Nationals debut on Saturday.

“I’m much more comfortable this time around,” said Swett. “Going to a place where you are bringing in the best track athletes in the country is very exciting and almost overwhelming. You have to stay consistent with your own mindset. When I was at Emerging Elite Nationals two years ago, I was nervous and my body could feel it. It’s important to stay within yourself and remember that it is only a two-second throw. You have to stay with your own cues and your own techniques.”

“I’m in a much different place now than my previous trips to nationals or other big meets,” Oberai said. “Before it was like ‘Let’s go out and see what I can do.’ Now, each practice I have is focused on turning this race into one that I’m in a position to win.”

Over the countless trainings and meets during their time in Exeter, they have each felt a tremendous change in how they prepare for any meet and realize their full potential as track athletes.

“Approaching a race for me is a mindset,” said Pisano. “I think my mindset about running has changed a lot. When COVID first hit and track season was canceled, I continued to train and run and do things on my own. I almost had an epiphany of why I started this sport in the first place and why I enjoy it so much. It’s a tough sport. You’re walking a line between grit and grace. Some days your mechanics are great and beautiful, other days you’re grinding through it. I like going into races feeling confident in the training I have done and feeling confident in myself.”

“One of the biggest changes in me throughout my time at Exeter is realizing the attention to detail you put into anything can really make a monumental difference,” said Swett. “You have four limbs, and you focus on coordinating all four of those limbs in a matter of two seconds. Trying to improve and to get my skills to another level requires a whole different mindset than I originally realized.”

While the levels of success they have achieved throughout their prep careers came from immense amounts of hard work and determination, they are quick to praise the coaching they have received from Big Red head track and field coach Hilary Hall, throws coach Steve Holmes, and distance coach Brandon Newbould.

“Coach Newbould is probably the reason I am here,” said Oberai. “We’ve become super close. He’s super dedicated and spends a lot of time, effort, and energy into me and our team training. He has a lot of confidence in me which pushes me to do my best. I’m really lucky to have him in my corner.”

“There are hundreds of people that know a lot about track and field, but there are intangibles that separate a good coach versus a great coach,” said Swett. “I owe the majority of my success to Coach Holmes. He’s a great coach. Every day when I see him he yells out my name from across the field. He brings the same high energy, the same joy to every practice. He’s a true expert. I’ve learned a lot from him, but he also makes the process so much more fun and enjoyable. He keeps you motivated to do well.”