After a strong showing at the Marc Deneault Invitational last weekend, the Cornell Track and Field teams are looking forward to continuing their momentum this weekend at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.
“Each event group has been working very hard for the past several months and the progress from week to week is very encouraging,” said women’s head coach Artie Smith. “We have great momentum, which we intend to keep building on, as we enter the championship part of the season.”
The invitational truly showed what the Red is capable of, with the women racking up 12 event wins and the men securing 11.
“Last weekend is exactly what we were looking for,” said men’s head coach Adrian Durant. “It was meant to be a last tuning-up meet before Heps, and what we expected is pretty much what we got: a lot of season’s best performances.”
“It’s definitely been a great season with hard work and big changes, so it was good to kind of have that confirmation of the work that we’ve put in,” added senior Oseoba Airewele, one of the MVPs of last week’s invitational. “These last two meets before Heps are usually always high energy.”
Airewele was one of the three seniors who put the Cornell men’s team on the board for the field events, specifically winning the triple jump event with a jump that is the 9th-best in program history. Similarly, Airewele’s classmate Myles Lazarou won the high jump event and co-captain Alex Rodriguez won the long jump event.
The men also showed their strength in the 4×400 relay, composed of sophomore Ben Fields, junior Alex Beck, senior captain Michael Smith and senior Stanford Cooper, with a winning time nearly seven seconds faster than their competition.
The women’s team also stood out at the invitational this past weekend, not only winning events but qualifying 17 athletes to go to the ECAC championships. Seasonal bests were made in the weight throw by juniors Leena Morris and Autumn Covington, and senior co-captain Taylor Baker fought for her place in the ECAC qualifiers with a fourth place finish. Senior Ellen Shepard had a seasonal best of 7.56 in the 60-meter dash, finishing fourth overall.
“We have several stars who will be able to help the team,” Smith said. “Our five senior captains in particular have done a great job of setting the tone and helping move the team forward.”
Senior jumper Kate Gulbrandsen has not beaten her personal record of 1.79 meters since the Ivy League Indoor Track and Field Championships in February of 2016, and is looking forward to attempting a personal record this weekend.
“My personal goal is to win Heps by jumping above my previous personal best of 5 feet, 10.5 inches,” Gulbrandsen said. “We have more Cornell high jumpers competing this weekend than any of my other three years here. The goal for our group is to get as many of us on the podium as possible.”
Last year’s Heps weren’t as big of a success as the Red hoped they would be. The women managed to accomplish two new school records and three Second-Team All-Ivy performances, but their overall score fell flat and held them to a sixth place finish.
The men were in first place, with 145 points to Princeton’s 142, up until the last event: the 4×400 meter relay. Despite the Red’s previous success in the event, Yale pulled ahead to win, followed by Harvard and, in third, Princeton, forcing Cornell to finish in fourth.
Although last year’s result did add to their team history of first and second place Ivy league Heps finishes, it wasn’t the outcome that they hoped for.
“We lost fair and square last year, and this year the guys have been very motivated, working very hard,” Durant said. “From what I’ve seen in practice, I think they’re ready to go.”
Overall, for both the men and women, the excitement for Heps is palpable and every single player going is ready to prove themselves, both individually and as a program.
“I think a key to achieving the outcomes you want in such a high energy environment is the ability to tune out the noise and stay composed, said junior Annie Taylor. “So I hope we can approach the weekend like it’s just business as usual.”