A year removed from setting the Ivy Outdoor Heps record in 2016, Cornell men’s track and field entered this year’s championships knowing it was bound to face even tougher competition. In a battle with long-time rival Princeton, Cornell was projected to fall to the Tigers by about 30 points before the first event began.
Emotions were running high. Just ask senior thrower Rudy Winkler, who has competed in the most extreme of conditions at the Olympics in Rio.
“The atmosphere was pretty tense, especially at first,” he said. “We went in thinking we were on the losing side of things, and as the meet progressed we kept upsetting in a lot of places where we weren’t really supposed to score points.”
The point total was close between Cornell and Princeton for the entire meet, with the Red having the lead until the final scoring of the decathlon, where the Tigers took eight points to claim 156, which just pushed them past Cornell’s 149.
Unfortunately for Cornell, senior decathlete Austin Jamerson came down with a hamstring injury which prevented him from competing. Jamerson would have been a likely contender for the Ivy League title in the decathlon, but instead, the Red came away with no points from an event that could have secured yet another Heps title.
Final results aside, the first day of the meet went very well for Cornell. Winkler started things off by defending his title in the hammer throw for the third year in a row with a throw of 237 feet. It was the inciting point of the Red’s big day.
“It feels really nice being able to kick off the meet with a win for the team because it sets everything in motion and puts momentum behind a lot of guys,” Winkler said. “Being able to do that in the first event is pretty cool.”
Senior Mark Tedder had a big win the 10K with a time of 31:55.17, while junior Samuel Chauvin finished third. Together, the distance duo putting 16 points on the board in just the first day. In the the preliminary events as a whole, the men positioned themselves well for finals on Sunday.
Junior Myles Lazarou kicked off the second day of the meet with a three-peat victory in the high jump. He jumped 6’10.25” to win the event by just over an inch.
Keeping this momentum on its side, the Red dominated the podium with repeated success in the sprints.
The 4×100 relay team of junior Brailin Paulino and sophomores Jonathan Avery, Alex Beck and Zach Menchaca took a commanding win in an impressive time of 40.32.
Menchaca later went on to win the 100m, and Avery, Paulino and freshman James Norris were close behind, taking third through fifth, respectively.
In the 200m, Menchaca placed second, Avery and freshman Andy Snyder finished just behind him to take third and fourth. Paulino grabbed fifth.
The distance squad held up its end of the bargain with two runner-up finishes — junior Michael Wang in the steeplechase and classmate Dominic DeLuca in the 5K.
Nearing the close of the meet, Cornell’s upsets in the sprints had put the team in good position to take home the title. A strong finish in the 4x400m relay — an event the Red has won the past three years — was going to be critical to keeping this hope alive. However, these hopes were soon dashed: the team was in third until the last lap when Princeton’s Josh Freeman snuck by Cornell senior Tobe Attah, who is also a staff writer for The Sun, by less than one 10th of a second to leave Cornell in fourth.
The Red led Princeton in the overall point totals by one, but the decathlon had yet to be scored. At this point, however, a victory was unfeasible. Princeton was guaranteed points among its three athletes in the decathlon, while Cornell had none.
Jamerson won the decathlon last year at Heps, but his injury made it impossible for him to compete. A win could have cancelled out Princeton’s eight points in the event and swapped the outcome of the meet.
Despite a disappointing end to his collegiate career, Jamerson kept in good spirits and did everything he could for his team.
“I’m really proud of the team, we had a great meet,” Jamerson said. “Looking at how we were projected to do, we did a lot better. It was really competitive; everybody that was on the roster did their absolute best, and we had a lot of huge performances.”
This year’s Heps also marked the last time senior co-captains Jamerson and Winkler competed together for Cornell. The humble pair led the Red this year, and will leave quite the lasting legacy.
Winkler helped bring the Cornell name to the 2016 Rio Olympics in the hammer throw, and both have graced the national stage in their respective events. Their graduation this spring will leave noticeably apparent holes in two very specialized events.
“Throughout your time at Cornell you do a lot, and you struggle trying to think of what is the most important thing that you want to leave behind,” Winkler said. “There isn’t just one thing — it’s everything and the entire experience combined. The best advice you could ever give is to not overthink things and just do what you know is going to make you happy and successful.”
Jamerson echoed that final sentiment: “Don’t do something because you think you should, do it because you want to.”
And that is exactly what has made this team so successful. While Cornell did not come away with the win, the group has now finished either first or second at outdoor Heps every year since 2003.
If all goes as planned, 2018 should not be any different.