February 24, 2006

Track Teams Hit Road In Search of Heps Title

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This weekend the men’s and women’s track teams will compete to defend their team titles as they travel to the Heptagonal championships at Dartmouth. The two-day event will feature athletes from each of the Ivy League schools, all vying for the right to call themselves 2006 Heps champions. The women have placed first at the indoor Heps competition in each of the last four years, while the men have claimed two of the last three titles.

Both the men and women have performed well in early season competitions, and hope to continue this trend into the weekend.

“If things go perfectly, this will be an interesting meet,” men’s head coach Nathan Taylor said. “I think it will be unbelievably close, perhaps the closest it has been in fifteen years.”

On the men’s side, the battle for first place has been between Cornell, Penn and Princeton over the past few years. This year should be no different as each team boasts a number of accomplished individual athletes, as well as depth in many events.

Going into the weekend, Cornell athletes hold the top performances in several events, including junior Evan Whitehall in the pole vault, sophomore Jordan Lester in the 60-meter dash and classmate Jimmy Wyner in the 1,000-meters. Lester and classmate Saidu Ezike (60-meter hurdles) are the only returning individual champions from last season, but that could change.

One of the deepest areas for the men will be the jumps, as a number of individuals have performed exceedingly well over the past few weeks. Five of the top 10 marks in the high jump this season have been recorded by Cornell athletes. Junior David Pell is one of only two athletes in the Ivy League to have already cleared 6-11 this season. Brown senior Ray Bobrowonicki has won the event two times in years past. The horizontal jumps will be headed by junior Rayon Taylor and sophomore Muhammad Halim. Taylor and Halim have the second and third longest jumps, respectively, in the triple jump.

The Red’s weakness this weekend may lie where Princeton holds its greatest strength – in the distance events. The men will not compete in several of the longer events, giving the opportunity for other teams to close the gap on the Red. Wyner and freshman Zach Hine, who placed 14th in the Junior National Cross Country championships last weekend, will be two of the few distance runners to compete.

“I think [the team] knows it’s going to be a dogfight,” Taylor said. “It could come down to only a few points.”

Unlike the men, the women will be entering at least one athlete in every event.

“We are looking to do as well as a team as we can,” women’s head coach Lou Duesing said.

The women will use their depth to their advantage. Despite losing several talented women to graduation last year, the Red currently holds the best performances in ten events, including junior Morgan Uceny in the 800 and 1,000-meters, senior co-captain Sheeba Ibidunni in the weight throw, senior co-captain Linda Trotter in the 400-meters and freshman standout Jeomi Meduka in the long jump. A handful of women have already met NCAA provisional standards early in the season, while many more have had ECAC qualifying performances.

“One thing that characterizes successful teams is the ability to score in every event,” Duesing said. “I think we have potential scorers in every event.”

Yale, Penn and Princeton have all had impressive seasons so far, which should make for some interesting competition this weekend.

“Every team has improved themselves over past years,” Duesing said. “I am sure there will be people coming after us.”

The two-day nature of the event has the potential of taking its toll on the teams, but the Red looks forward to the team unity that results from Heps competition.

“I would love to come home with a team title, but it is going to be a tough task,” junior Rayon Taylor said. “I love my teammates. I’m rooting for them in every event and have faith that they’re doing the same.”

Archived article by Erin Garry
Sun Staff Writer