January 27, 2006

Track Teams Take On Big East, Ivy Rivals

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The men’s and women’s track team will undertake a flurry of action this weekend as they travel across the East Coast to face off against numerous teams. The men’s team will kick off its weekend schedule tomorrow when it travels to New York City to compete in the highly competitive Big East vs. Heps rivalry meet.

This matchup pits arguably the top-3 Ivy League programs – Cornell, UPenn, Princeton – against three elite Big East squads – Rutgers, Seton Hall, and UConn. The Red will take down its best two athletes in each event to race in the meet.

“Big East vs. Heps is a good opportunity for the team to perform at a high level against some very strong competition. I’m definetely looking forward to it,” head coach Nathan Taylor said.

Meanwhile, the rest of the squad will travel up to Boston tomorrow for a three-way meet with two tough Ivy League foes – Harvard and Brown.

On the women’s side, Harvard boasts several top athletes, including sophomore Lindsey Scherf and freshman Becky Christensen. Scherf returns from a season in which she earned All-Ameircan honors and currently is the national leader in the 5,000-meter event as well as the Heps leader in the mile run.

Christensen, in just her first year with the Crimson, has already established herself as one of the best high jumpers in the Ivy League with a leap this year of 1.76 meters.

Brown, on the other hand, has only competed in one meet this season and its athletes are relatively unknown to the Red squad.

“Brown is really a mystery to me, I’m not sure what to expect out of them,” women’s head coach Lou Duesing said.

Regardless of the strength of the squads the Red is facing, however, Duesing recognizes that his team cannot take this meet lightly.

“Because of our success in the past few years, all Ivy League teams seem to be gunning for us. I’m sure they would love nothing more than to knock off the seven-time defending Heps champs,” Duesing said.

The Red will rely on many of its top athletes at the meet, especially senior co-captain Sheeba Ibidunni in the weight throw and junior Morgan Uceny in middle dsitances.

Beyond her invaluable leadership as a captain, Ibidunni set a Barton Hall and Ivy League record at the Cornell Relays this season with a throw of 62 feet and 10 inches. Uceny – who was an All-American last season – also set a Barton Hall record at the Cornell relays in the 1000-meter event.

On the men’s side, the Harvard meet will test the Red’s durability more than anything else. After competing in the Big East vs. Heps competition, the top-2 athletes in each event will have to take the long bus ride up to Boston that same night to compete against Harvard and Brown the following day.

Despite this challnge, however, Taylor is confident that his team is up to the task.

“I am very pleased with our progress as a team thus far; we are exactly where I expected us to be at this point. Overall I feel the depth of our squad is simply overwhelming for most teams – Harvard and Brown included,” Taylor said.

The men will need to participate without many of their top cross country runners, however, including senior All-American Bruce Hyde who is retuning from a knee injury.

With these losses, the Red will continue to rely on the same athletes who have driven its success the entire season. Sophomores Saidu Ezike and Jordan Lester will be relied upon to dominate the sprinting and hurdling events, just as junior Evan Whitehall will look to continue his sensational run in the pole vault.

Finally, junior Rayon Taylor and sophomore Muhammad Halim – who have both already made IC4A qualifying marks in the triple jump – should also be expected to turn in top-notch performances.

“We have about a dozen athletes which every program in the nation wishes they had,” Taylor said, “and I will look for these kids to lead the way throughout the remainder of the season.”

Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer