March 9, 2007

Track Sends Four to NCAAs

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This weekend, four members of the Red track teams have one last opportunity to build upon an already successful indoor season. Juniors Muhammad Halim and Ray Taylor will compete in the triple jump, while seniors Morgan Uceny and Sarah Wilfred will compete in the 800-meter and the high jump, respectively, at the NCAA Indoor track championships.

Last year, Uceny was the only member of the Red to compete at the indoor championships, although several Red athletes, including Uceny, Wilfred and Taylor, competed at the outdoor championships. Men’s head coach Nathan Taylor, who was recently named the Northeast Region Coach of the Year, is excited to have two of his athletes competing in the championships in Fayetteville, Ark. this weekend.

“It’s great. It is the first time [having two male athletes qualify for the indoor championships] has happened at Cornell in quite a while,” he said. “It’s particularly exciting to have them both in one event.”

Halim is the No. 1 seed in the triple jump. His personal best of 16.21 meters, set at the indoor Heps, is 0.15 meters longer than the season-best of any other athlete in the field.

“Up through this point, the better the competition is, the better he has been,” Taylor said. “He’s the consummate competitor.”

Ray Taylor’s personal record of 15.88 meters qualified him as the No. 9 seed. He started the season slowly, missing much of the team’s training and early season meets due to a foot injury.

“He’s had a good season. He’s coming on very well,” Taylor said.

For the women, both Uceny and Wilfred qualified automatically by winning their respective events at Heps.

“Both are All-Americans. They’ve competed very well at the national level,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “I can feel great because they’ve worked hard to get here.”

Uceny is the No. 3 seed in her event. Her time of 2:04.58 during Heps was within one second of the seasonal best from the field’s top seed, junior Katya Kostetskaya of Texas State. This will be Uceny’s third year competing in the 800-meter race at the NCAA indoor championships.

“The very first time here, she finished seventh. Last year, she finished fourth,” Duesing said. “She knows what to expect. She’s familiar with the facility, with the track and with everything that goes on. I think that familiarity helps her focus more on the race.”

Wilfred is the No. 5 seed in the high jump, although the difference between the seasonal bests of the No. 2 seed and the No. 6 seed is a mere 0.01 meters. She placed fifth in the event at the outdoor championships in 2006. Duesing would not set expectations or place specific goals for his athletes.

“Expectations for athletes never change — whether it’s the most rinky-dink meet, the NCAA championships or the Olympics — and that is to do the best that they can,” he said.