It is not often that you host the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships as the favorites to win over a longtime rival defending its title. Yet, coming into this weekend, this was exactly the case with the Cornell men’s track and field team, competing for a league crown in Barton Hall in Ithaca, looking to knock off a solid Princeton team. But as Sunday began to wind down, it became clear that this storybook ending to the indoor season was not to be.
Instead Cornell finished second in the Ivy League with 142 points, trailing only Princeton and its 165 point first place total. The women’s team also finished second, scoring a point total of 123.50 only bested by Harvard’s 136.50.
Men’s head coach Adrian Durant said he felt his team could have done more.
“The general feeling is disappointment,” Durant said. “We were the favorites going in and had been doing very well all year, but when it came time to step up to the plate, Princeton just did a better job of showing up.”
Junior sprinter Tobe Attah had similar praise for Princeton.
“Their team was ready to perform and attacked in all areas, slowly but surely outscoring us in a number of events,” Attah, a Sun staff writer. “I have to commend them on showing up when they absolutely needed to.”
The Red won five events during the two-day meet and had noteworthy performances from several key athletes.
On Saturday, junior Rudy Winkler was the top weight thrower in the league for the second straight year. His throw was good for fourth best in Ivy League history. Senior Ben Rainero took home first in the 3K with a time of 8:08.32. With four events in the books, including two victories, Cornell led the field going into Sunday’s action and would need to keep it up to close out the win.
Sunday’s results, however, were not quite what the Red needed. Though they did win three more events, it was not nearly enough. Princeton would take over the lead relatively early on in the day and never looked back.
“We were good on Sunday but they were perfect,” Durant said. “They had a perfect meet, and you have to respect them for that.”
There were a litany of strong performances from the Red. Senior Max Hairston won the 60 meter hurdles in 7.86 seconds. Austin Jamerson dominated in the Heptathlon, taking first with 5,396 combined points, and the 4×400 relay team finished in first place to close out the meet, behind the especially strong performance of Attah, the team’s anchor. Princeton had already clinched the championship at that point, but Attah kept running hard.
“For me personally, it was a combination of having the right training to perform that day and the drive to fight for my team until the very end,” Attah said. “I knew at the time, regardless of the performance, Princeton would win the meet. I just did not see that as a reason to not go out with a bang for the team I love.”
But when disappointing results in the shot put, the 60-meter dash, the 800 and the 1K, to name just a few, let the lead slip away, the spirited home fans who packed Barton did not have as much to cheer about as they would have liked.
“Having the HEPS atmosphere here at home was unforgettable,” Attah said. “The amount of support from friends and past teammates coming all the way to Barton to cheer us on made this meet memorable … It was heartbreaking though to see Princeton suffocate us in a wide array of events.”
The Tigers won seven events on Sunday including three 1-2 finishes to claim its 19th Indoor Ivy League title. Since 1997, Cornell or Princeton has won Indoor HEPS each year, and the rivalry remains strong.
“We are all disappointed to lose to Princeton at home,” Attah said. “We can all be proud of the great performances today, but there has always been a Cornell/Princeton rivalry, and they came out on the winning end.”
Durant still wants to remain positive going forward, and he knows he has an equally strong outdoor squad.
“A loss like that is tough to take, and we have to figure out what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Durant said. “But this is an amazing group of guys — one of the most talented we’ve ever had here — and I think that when they do step up to the plate, it’s going to be a very special thing.”
Cornell will look forward to the outdoor season starting up soon, with some unfinished business to take care of in May.
“We are all anxious to get revenge at Outdoor HEPS held at Princeton,” Attah stated.
On the women’s side, The team was able to secure a second place overall team finish. The second place finish was highlighted by stunning performances on the field and on the track.
In the field unit, the Red took second, third and fourth place in the shot put, with sophomore Michaela Smith taking second. Freshman Leena Morris, who was able to win the Ivy League weight throw title, came in third, followed by Taylor Drayton in fourth.
On the track the the aeniors on the team played a major role in Cornell’s success. Udeme Akpaete, Kristen Niedrach and Caroline Kellner were all able to secure second place finishes in the 400, 1000 and 5000, respectively. In show of collective effort, the Red’s 4×400 team also had an impressive showing yesterday with a second place finish.
Sophomore Taysia Radoslav was able to beat the meet record in her second place finish in the 500m.
Bursting through the finish line, the crowd erupted as she was able to finish such a strong race.
“It felt unreal to look up and see my time. It was a huge PR for me and it was definitely a tough race.” Radoslav said. “I looked over and the first person I saw was my coach and he was so happy for me.”