The Cornell men’s and women’s track teams will combine forces with rival Penn in order to take on two English teams at this year’s Oxford and Cambridge Invitational tomorrow at the Robert J. Kane Sports Complex.
“It’s a little bit of an oddity,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “[Oxford and Cambridge] don’t really have coaches and the idea of teaming up with another school in order to compete is very unusual.”
The history behind this event’s existence is a heralded one. The meet, which is held once every four years, is unique in that it dates back all the way to 1920, when the only teams competing in track and field were Ivy League schools. Historically, the event has served as both an educational experience and a basis for trans-Atlantic competition.
“We try to endorse this competition as a cultural exchange more so than we do a competition,” Duesing said.
Although the event will feature an Olympic style affair, with countries competing against each other instead of schools, success is still expected from the Red after last week’s UC-Irvine Collegiate Classic. The event saw 11 Cornell men and women earn NCAA Regional qualifying bids as well as sophomore Sarah Wilfred’s Cornell record-tying performance in the high jump.
Along with winning momentum, the history of tomorrow’s event seems to favor the Ivy League schools.
“We are the only combined team who competes against [Oxford and Cambridge] that has never lost to them,” said men’s head coach Nathan Taylor. “Harvard and Yale also compete against them but they have lost some and won some. Dartmouth and Brown used to do it but have since stopped competing.”
Even though the Red has experienced recent success, the team won’t be at full strength tomorrow. Along with teammate Penn, the Red has some aches and pains that will keep several top athletes out of competition. The men’s team will be shorthanded as junior distance runner Bruce Hyde won’t run and neither will freshmen Saidu Ezike and Jordan Lester.
The Red will be hard pressed to retain international bragging rights, as Oxford and Cambridge boast top performers who should put pressure on the Ivy Leaguers.
“They have a very good 1500-meter runner who is one of the best college-aged kids in the U.K. on the men’s side,” Taylor said. “They have a very good steeplechaser and a very good long jumper. They also have one of the very best in their country in the 400-meter hurdles.”
Tomorrow’s event should prove to be a special one in that it is not every weekend that a team from another country comes to compete against Cornell on their home track. Oxford and Cambridge arrived in Ithaca on Wednesday and have a history of making the best of the event.
“Schools like Cambridge and Oxford usually come here and stay here longer than any other competition,” said Duesing. “They eat well, they sleep well, and they just seem to enjoy their stay.”
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer