The men’s and women’s track teams continued their unparalleled success in the Ivy League this weekend, as both squads were crowned champions of the indoor Heptagonal championships in Hanover, N.H., by defeating all seven Ivy League rivals.
For the women, the event marks the Red’s fifth consecutive indoor title and – including the outdoor season – the team’s ninth straight title overall. Similarly, the men captured their third indoor title in the past four years and sixth of the last seven Heps overall.
The women’s squad appeared to have no trouble handling the pressure of the championship, leading the meet from start to finish and scoring a staggering 142 points – 57 more than runner-up Yale.
“I am overwhelmingly proud with the way our athletes competed,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “I think this is one of the best, if not the best, performance I have seen during my tenure as head coach of Cornell track. Absolutely everything went according to plan – which never happens.”
On the way to its dominant victory the Red compiled a long list of accolades, including scoring in 15-of-18 events, four event wins, five second-place finishes, four NCAA provisional-qualifying performances, 33 ECAC qualifying performances, four school records, two freshman records and 17 adjustments to Cornell’s all-time top-10 lists.
Leading the way for Cornell was senior co-captain Sheeba Ibidunni, who capped off her extraordinary indoor season by repeating as weight throw champion with a mark of 59-7 and winning the shot put with a heave of 47-0 3/4.
Ibidunni’s mark in the shot put – not historically her strongest event – bested her personal record by almost three feet and was the second farthest mark in Cornell history.
Junior Morgan Uceny also continued her stellar season by having a hand in an unprecedented two meet records.
Her time of 2:06.88 in the 800 meters won the event by over five seconds, qualified her for the NCAA championships and broke a meet record which had stood for 25 years. Furthermore, Uceny contributed the fastest leg of the 4×400 team, which won the event with a meet record time of 3:44.53.
Another standout performance was contributed by senior Jamie Greubel, who won the pentathlon with a school-record 3,890 points, placed third in the 60-meter hurdles with a personal best time of 8.79 seconds and took sixth in the long jump with a mark of 17-9.
Freshman dual-sport athlete Jeomi Maduka also made her presence felt, debuting at the Heps by taking second in the triple jump (41-0 3/4), second in the long jump (20-3 3/4), and fifth in the 60 meters (7.72).
Even more impressively, Maduka’s mark in the long jump was a personal best, an NCAA provisional qualifier, set a school record, and was topped only by Yale senior co-captain and meet co-MVP Joslyn Woodard.
“I think it says a lot that the majority of the athletes who performed really well at the meet were seniors,” Duesing said. “The success of a team is often determined by the leadership and quality of performance put forth by the seniors; they certainly were up to the challenge.”
On the men’s side, however, the story was much different. Cornell trailed first-place Princeton, 47-23, after Saturday’s events, and it looked as if the Red’s recent dominance in the Ivy League might be coming to an end.
However, the men rallied when it mattered most and accumulated 122 points to edge second-place Princeton by 20.
On their road to the championship, the men placed in 17-of-20 events, won two events, placed second in five, established 32 IC4A qualifying performances, one NCAA provisional qualifier, one freshman record, and seven changes to Cornell’s all-time top-10 lists.
“I was certainly nervous throughout the weekend because of how much we were trailing initially,” said men’s head coach Nathan Taylor. “However, the Heps is a team championship and I am very proud of the way our whole team pulled together in the end.”
Leading the charge for the Red on Saturday was junior Evan Whitehall, who captured his first Heps title in the pole vault and earned valuable points for the Red with a leap of 16-8 3/4.
The following day, Cornell was boosted by the efforts of sophomore jumpers Rayon Taylor and Muhammad Halim. In the triple jump, Taylor won his first Heps title and established the third-best mark in Cornell history with an NCAA provisional-qualifying jump of 51-2 1/4, while Halim nipped at his heels, soaring 50-0 1/2 to a third-place finish.
This was not the only damage the tandem caused, however, as Halim took third place in the long jump with a mark of 23-4 1/3, while Taylor placed seventh with a leap of 22-5 3/4.
Also aiding the Red’s Sunday comeback was the gutsy performance of sophomore Jimmy Wyner, who attempted a rare double in the mile and 1,000 meters.
In the mile Wyner recorded a time of 4:05.93 – the fourth-fastest time in Cornell history – to take second place and later finished first in the 1,000 meters, only to be disqualified for committing a foul on the last lap.
“Jimmy’s performance was not only gutsy for me, but also extremely impressive because of the fact that he ran that mile time on a flat track, which makes it much more difficult,” Taylor said.
Other notable Sunday performances for the Red were accomplished by sophomores Aaron Merrill and Jordan Lester. Merrill took second in the 500 meters with a time of 64.35 seconds to pull Cornell even with Princeton, and Lester gave the men an eight-point lead in the very next event, as he took second place in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.85 seconds.
Also earning valuable points for the Red on Sunday was sophomore Saidu Ezike – last year’s 60-meter hurdles Heps champion – who despite a painful knee injury, gutted out a fourth-place finish in the same event with a time of 8.10 seconds.
“I thought our team came out a little overzealous and was simply trying to hard on Saturday,” Taylor said. “But obviously I am happy with the end result, even though our team didn’t perform as well as it is capable of.”
Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer