April 8, 2008

Track Leaves Penn Invitational After Multiple Successes

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Continuing their strong start in the spring outdoor campaign, the men’s and women’s track teams finished up at the Penn Invitational in Philadelphia last Saturday. Combined, the men and women produced 11 event wins along with 10 IC4A qualifiers, four NCAA Regional Qualifiers and 11 ECAC qualifying races on Saturday.
The men asserted themselves as a powerhouse against top teams like UPenn, Rutgers, Villanova and Temple among others, securing a total of 22 top-5 finishes at the invitational.
“I would say it was very much a mixed bag,” said men’s track head coach Nathan Taylor. “Some of the guys did particularly well — Scott Jaffee, Mike Smayda, Jason Inzana — there were a few guys that I thought did very well. There were five or six guys that I thought did pretty well — reasonably well for this point in the season. But collectively, I think our expectations are higher than what we saw at the meet.”
Senior Mike Smayda placed first in the 800 meters with an impressive time of 1:51.22 less than a second in front of the runner up, junior Andy Miller, who finished in 1:51.63. Other impressive performances came with the depth of talent on the men’s 4×400-meter long sprints team, consisting of junior Marcel Van Eeden, junior Kojo Degraft-Hanseon, senior Adam Seabrook and sophomore Michael Kippins. The team managed to run a 3:16.55, a IC4A qualifying time.
“The men’s 800 was a terrific race,” Taylor said. “Smayda and Andy Miller pulled away from the Columbia runner who was an NCAA finalist last year — they ran particularly good races. Not incredible times, but it was a much more strategic race.”[img_assist|nid=29628|title=Up and over|desc=Junior high jumper Garrett Huyler arches over the bar during the second day of the Heptagonal Championships in Barton Hall on March 2.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
In the field events, sophomore Scott Jaffee performed well in the discus, throwing a distance of 162-11 for first place. Sophomore Aaron Gadsen had an impressive triple-jump performance, reaching 48-2 ¾ feet. Taylor used Cornell’s success in multiple events including the 4×100-meter relays, the hammer throw, the steeplechase, the 400-meter hurdles and the 5000 meters to emphasize the importance of a team effort in order to elevate the track program to its highest level.
“Successful team performance in track relies on so many kids,” Taylor said. “Cornell probably has fifteen or so really good athletes on the team, but it doesn’t really hinge on one person — certainly, in order to be the very best in the championships, everybody’s got to be there and everybody has to be ready to go.”
The women also made an impact in Philadelphia on Saturday, winning seven events against a skilled field of collegiate teams. With consistency and even performances across the majority of the events, the women’s wide distribution of talent reveals the potential for even greater showings later in the season.
“You know, I thought we had a very good meet,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “There was nothing where you would say ‘Holy mackerel! What a great mark.’ As far as national qualifiers go, anyway. But there were a tremendous number of personal best performances and improvements, so I came away feeling very good about the day.”
Perhaps one of the most crucial victories of the day came after the first place finish in the 4×100-meter relay, won by a powerful team consisting of junior Jeomi Maduka — who also won three individual events, qualifying for the NCAA Regional Qualifiers in the long-jump and triple-jump, and qualifying for the ECACs in the 100 meters — junior Janice Nsor, sophomore Megan Williams and junior Jessica Retelny. The team ran 47.24, a personal best for the season.
“I was very pleased with our 4×100 meter relay,” Duesing said. “That’s the first time that group had even run together — so given that fact, I thought they did a very good job; all of the members can definitely find a chuck of time that they can reduce so by the end of the season, the time will be even faster than that. But, it was a great start.”
Other exciting performances came in the 800 and 1500 meters. Cornell had seven runners finish in the top-9 in the 800 meters and five runners in the top-11 in the 1500 meters, speaking to the talent of the team’s middle distance runners. Top finishes came from sophomore Kerri Lyons (2nd in the 800 meters) and senior Anjelica Gregory (2nd in the 1500 meters). After the results were in, Duesing was pleased both with the amount of effort displayed at the competition and the level of concentration during the week’s preparation as well.
“I’m very happy with the 800 and 1500-meter runners,” Duesing said. “Lots of personal bests in both of those events, and I was looking forward to those races because of the quality of the workouts had over the last three or four weeks has been very, very good. So, I wasn’t surprised when we saw a significant improvement. Two of the quarter-milers ran very well,” Duesing said. “Megan Williams and Tameka Royal — both of them had lousy lanes and were still able to run at quality times. Jessica Weyman had a personal best in the intermediate hurdles, [I saw] a real improvement for Emily Newton in the intermediate hurdles, and I thought Joan Casey ran well in the sprint hurdles as well.”
All in all, the men’s and women’s track teams are getting back into the swing of the outdoor season. Resuming and building on key performances at the Penn Invitational in the short-, middle-, and long-distance events, as well as field events will all but guarantee an upward trend in the conference standings as the season progresses. Nevertheless, the coaches are still concerned about the work-ethic of the entire team and what they are working towards in terms of improving their own personal skills and team potential.
“It was a good meet, not a great meet,” Duesing said. “Sometimes with these quick events that require sprinting or a lot of technical ability, it helps to have some time to get your legs back under you. The first time you get back, you might be a little bit rusty. And yet, people did a great job in getting out and getting after it once it was time to compete.”