March 28, 2008

Early Wins Put Red On the Right Track

Print More

Returning from an impressive showing at the Spring Break Invitational and Irvine Classic in California, the men’s and women’s track and field teams are gearing up for another competition — the Quaker Invitational in Philadelphia on April 5.
The UC Irvine Collegiate Classic took place last Friday and Saturday, where the Red men and women managed to combine for 13 wins, 50 top-5 finishes, 27 ECAC/IC4A qualifiers and 6 NCAA regional qualifiers at the two-day event. With the teams rallying against many strong teams — Yale, UC Riverside, Biola, Southern Utah, Cal Poly Pomona, El Camino and Occidental among others — the Big Red made their mark on the competition.
“Especially with the two meets in California, a lot of people did as well if not better than they wanted to,” said senior co-captain Aaron Merrill. “There were a few disappointments, but for the most part, everyone was satisfied with their performances. I know I am very pleased with how I ran — I made two regional qualifiers, and I broke a 59-year old record in the 400 hurdles. Our middle-distance guys did well, making a bunch of regional qualifiers —more so than I can remember having in previous years.”
Merrill dominated in Irvine, leading his squad to seven event wins, three NCAA regional qualifiers, and 16 IC4A qualifiers. He hit a new personal best of 14.21 seconds in the 110 hurdles for a regional qualifier, placing him No. 5 all-time at Cornell. Other strong performances for the Red men came from junior Andy Miller, with a time of 3:46.24 in the 1500, a NCAA regional qualifier. Adam Seabrook and Ian Ward were also top performers at the event.
“Andy Miller did really well in the 1500 meters for a regional qualifier,” Merrill said. “One of my senior co-captains, Adam Seabrook, also had a regional qualifier in the 400 hurdles. I think he could’ve gone even a little faster though, since he almost fell down on the last hurdle. Ian Ward in the 3000-meter steeplechase took it over and did a really good job as well.”
The Red women also performed well, winning six events and adding to the all-time top-10 lists seven times. Strong races came from sophomore Jessica Weyman with 55.44 seconds in the 400 meters, junior Maria Matos in the discus and sophomore Stephanie Pancoast in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
“I know that five women qualified for NCAA Regionals,” sophomore pole vaulter Natalie Gengel said. “Maria Matos in the discus, Kate Murdoch in the 800 meters, myself in the pole vault, and Stephanie Pancoast and Erin Roberts in the 3000-meter steeplechase. These qualifying marks happened at two separate meets — CALS Northridge and UC Irvine.”
Looking ahead to the Quaker Invitational on April 5, the Red men and women are working to get back into the swing of the track season. Coming off of Spring Break, the teams are tweaking their workouts to optimize their performance in upcoming events.
“Workouts are ramping up now,” Merrill said. “We’re getting back into building the base of another season, so it’s going to be a little bit tougher to get really good marks out there, but it’s definitely possible. I expect us to do very well.”
Motivation will be a key to success in Philadelphia for the Red men and women — sometimes, it is difficult to get in the mindset of competition especially for the Quaker Invitational. Overcoming obstacles on April 5 will dictate how well the men and women will perform.
“It’s definitely tricky — everyone wants to perform well,” Merrill said. “It seems like we never really get good weather, so sometimes it’s hard for some of the team to get excited about [the Quaker Invitational]. But we know the coach is still going to want all of us to go out and perform as best we can.”
All in all, it’s a long haul to the end of the season — races, practices, and competitions take a lot out of these teams. With the talent on the men’s and women’s track and field teams this year, they hope to make a strong push to the end of the season and make a lasting mark on the Cornell record books.
“I think we had a great start to the season,” Gengel said. “Everyone is in a good place for this point in the season, and we look to continually improve on our performances.”
“We’re looking really good this season,” Merrill said. “Our team’s really stepping it up, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”