April 9, 2008

Track Shines for Six Reasons

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The men’s and women’s track squads feature seven particular strengths, making them successful and making them unique among Cornell teams.

To qualify for all-American status, an athlete must qualify for the National meet and perform well enough to be considered the top in the country. Cornell houses four such people who accomplished this last year.
Morgan Uceny dominated in the 800 meter before graduating last year. Junior Jeomi Maduka achieved All-American status in the long jump and also excels in the 100 meter and on the women’s basketball team. Maduka qualified in the long jump for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Rayon Taylor graduated last year as the NCAA Champion in the triple jump. Like Maduka on the women’s side, senior Muhammad Halim is qualified in the long jump for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Additionally, hurdlers Aaron Merrill and Saidu Ezike are likely candidates to reach All-American status this season.

The average time spent on the East Hill by each of the track coaches is 14 years, so the experience of the staff is a definite factor in the success of both the men’s and women’s teams.
Women’s head coach Lou Duesing was named the Northeast Region Coach of the Year for outdoor track in 2007, and is currently in his 18th year in Ithaca. During his tenure, the women have won more Heptagonal Championships than anybody else in the league.
Men’s head coach Nathan Taylor has been with the program for nine years, and has won the Heptagonal championships the past five years, catapulting the program from a mediocre Ivy to one of the elite programs in the country.

The team’s individual balance is best exemplified by Jeomi Maduka — a star basketball player, in addition to being an All-American in track and field. Much of the men’s and women’s team members excelled in other sports in high school, lettering in everything from football to hockey to gymnastics. The athletes feature academic balance as well, as there are over 20 engineers on the men’s team.

Barton Hall
How many teams can claim to practice everyday in an old airplane hanger and armory? For a long time, Barton was the largest un-pillared room in existence. Sprawling nearly two acres and featuring one of the widest indoor tracks in the world, Barton is one of the premier track facilities in the nation. It’s little wonder the New York State High School championships are held here every year.

From 1936-1996, Cornell has sent eight athletes to the Olympics. Notable alumni include Jon Anderson’71, who won the Boston Marathon in 1973, and four-time Heps Champion and All-American Brian Clas ’94.

The squads travel the length of the country for meets, but the extra travel hasn’t made a dent in the Red’s results. If the New York Times thought the basketball team had it rough with its evening-long bus rides to other Ivies, then what would they say about the track team, which not only competes in “local” cities such as New Haven and Philadelphia, but also California, Tennessee and Florida?