March 14, 2008

Track Stars Take National Stage at NCAA Championships

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While most Cornell students head off to enjoy Spring Break, three Cornellians will be going to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the NCAA indoor track championships.
Junior women’s track star Jeomi Maduka has already made numerous headlines, including a featured article in USA Today.
Maduka was named Ivy League Player of the Year yesterday for her performance on the court, leading the women’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament.
That wasn’t a typo. She’s potentially going to the NCAA tournament for basketball and track. Maduka qualified for NCAAs in the long jump with the eighth best jump in the country.
“It was pretty exciting to see her article in USA Today,” said men’s head coach Nathan Taylor.
Maduka is not a stranger to national competition, however, as she has already been to the 2007 NCAA outdoor championships. She received All-American honors and placed 8th in that meet.
The Red will also see two men compete for the NCAA indoor championships this year. Senior co-captain Muhammad Halim qualified for the triple jump in 7th position and senior Saidu Ezike qualified for the 60 hurdles in 13th position.[img_assist|nid=28835|title=One giant leap|desc=The men’s and women’s track teams will send several competitors to the NCAA championships this weekend|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
This is Halim’s third trip to the NCAAs for track, and two of them are for the indoor championships. Halim finished in second place in last season’s NCAA indoor championships.
“Muhammad’s been here before, so I know there won’t be any surprises,” Taylor said. “He knows what to expect and he wants to finish inside the top-2 like he did last year. He’s excited and can’t wait to compete in the event.”
Ezike won the Heps championship in 60 hurdles and holds the school record in the event. This will be his first trip to NCAAs.
“This is Saidu’s first trip, and he’s psyched about it,” Taylor said. “He qualified in 13th position and wants to finish higher than that in the event. Anything can happen in hurdles, so you never know.”
Taylor himself has recently been recognized for his achievements this season after being named the Northeast Region Coach of the Year.
“It’s nice to get recognized by your peers for doing a great job,” Taylor said. “But I couldn’t do it without the athletes. Trust is really important on this team, and these guys really trust me and what I do.”
Last season the men scored 12 points as a team and finished in a tie for 16th place. This included the national championship victory by Rayon Taylor.
The Red now hopes to pull out another victory with one or more of the three players who qualified for the NCAAs this year.
“Not all the guys who wanted to make it were able to qualify, but I’m excited to be here,” Taylor said. “We’ve done well this season.”