March 25, 2009

Track Dominates Invitationals

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Over Spring Break, the men’s and women’s track and field teams had a great showing at the Cal State Northridge and the UC-Irvine Spring Break Invitationals, posting several quality performances.
At the Northridge Invitational, held over the weekend of March 14, the men’s highlights included grabbing four of the top five places in the 400 hurdles, as Aaron Merrill ’08, freshman Nick Huber and junior Mike Kippins went Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Merrill and Huber both posted IC4A qualifying times, finishing at 53.45 and 53.46 seconds, respectively.
“It’s the first time in this season that we’ve been able to run that event, so I think under the circumstances, the guys ran pretty well,” said head coach Nathan Taylor.[img_assist|nid=36225|title=Garrett as gumby|desc=Senior high jumper Garrett Huyler will be the men’s team’s first NCAA Regionals qualifier.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The Red also placed second in the 4×100 relay, as junior Josh Kirkpatrick, senior Nate Crabtree, sophomore Cody Boyd and senior Ola Williams posted an IC4A qualifying time of 41.91 seconds.
Personal bests recorded on the day included senior Sam Luff in the 1500-m (finishing third, with a time of 3:52.09) and senior Marcel van Eaden in the 800-m (also finishing third, with a time of 1:52.92).
Despite the successes, Taylor emphasized the Spring Break trip as more of a preliminary warm-up for the long outdoor season to come.
“That trip for us is more focused on training and technical work, rather than competition. The competitions are great, but they’re more like quizzes at the beginning of a class,” Taylor said.
The women fared just as well as their male counterparts, posting a number of top times and great showings in the field. In all, the women produced six ECAC qualifiers, six event wins and an NCAA Regional qualifier.
Junior pole vaulter Natalie Gengel grabbed the headlines, breaking her own school record in the event with a jump of 12-7 1/2 –– the third highest vault in the history of the Ivy League.
“That jump has been long coming,” said Gengel, who had gone much of the indoor season without improving her personal best. “It’s great to come out with a bang, and it’s an awesome way to start the season.”
The six wins at the meet included four Red relay victories, including the 4×100, whose team was without senior and Olympic Trials-qualifier Jeomi Maduka. Senior Janice Nsor, freshman Melissa Hewitt, senior Megan Williams and junior Krystal Williams finished with a time of 46.19 seconds –– the second best time in Ivy League history.
One week and 70 miles south later, both teams put up another good meet at the UC Irvine Spring Break Invitational. The men registered four event wins and 30 top-10 finishes, as well as seven more IC4A qualifiers.
In his first steeplechase, Luff picked up one of Cornell’s victories, finishing with a time of 9:30.11. In the high jump, senior Garrett Huyler became the men’s squad’s first NCAA Regional qualifier with a clearance of 7-0 1/2.
“It’s the highest I’ve jumped this early in the season in my whole career, so it’s nice to get the NCAA mark out of the way this early,” Huyler said.
Although the Spring Break trip was as much about training as it was about competing, the team was happy with the results it posted.
“We had a tough week of practice … guy’s were a little worn down, but they put up good performances,” Huyler said.
The women’s highlights from Irvine included a meet-best six event wins, as well eight more ECAC and two more NCAA Regional qualifiers.
The Red took three of the top five spots in the steeplechase, with Stephanie Pancoast winning with a time of 10:38.02. In addition, the 4×100 relay, now armed with Maduka, broke the Ivy League record with a winning time of 45.71 seconds.
In the field, senior Erin Fogler won the javelin, while sophomore Kim Lienhoop picked up the win in the triple jump.