Track & Field: After strong team weekend, Cabral, Callahan make NCAAs
After a long and tough season that saw them finish sixth at the Ivy League championships, the women finally put things together as they exited the indoor season on a high note. Bouncing back from failing to make the finals of the 400m at Heps, freshman Cecilia Barowski rocketed to a new school record in the 500m, winning in one minute, 12.37 seconds. For Barowski, practicing strategy over and over again the week after her poorly executed Heps 400m helped her stay in control throughout the entire race. When the gun went off, she exploded off the first turn to get into position and proceeded to drive all the way to the line.
“My first 100m in the finals was my high school PR,” Barowski said. “My 400 split was my PR, or close to it. It was a pretty fast race ... until the last 100m.”
Not finished for the day, Barowski doubled back a few hours later to take part in yet another Princeton record. Simply hoping to make the final of the 4x400m relay, the Tigers did that and more, as the squad of Barowski, junior Joie Hand and seniors Eileen Moran and Danielle Glaeser blitzed its preliminary round in 3:44.92. The record, which had been a season-long goal for the girls, broke the old 1998 best of 3:45.21. In the final they finished sixth, once again under the old school record at 3:45.12.
“It was really nice that the 4x4 was our captain Eileen’s last indoor race,” Barowski said. “We wanted to make the finals, but then getting the record was just icing on the cake.”
Several hundred miles away in South Bend, Ind., at Notre Dame, the men were busy setting relay records of their own. Hoping to chase an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 9:31.00 in the distance medley relay, the Tiger foursome of senior Trevor Van Ackeren, junior Peter Callahan and sophomores Michael Williams and Tom Hopkins lined up Friday night beside some of the NCAA’s fastest distance teams in one of two heats.
Covering the opening 1,200m leg for Princeton, Van Ackeren paced himself well in the middle of the pack through the beginning stages of his leg. Then, with 300 meters to go until the first baton exchange, Van Ackeren accelerated, quickly opening a gap on the rest of the deep field, and handed off in a superb time of 2:54.9.
Maintaining the lead, Heps champion Hopkins split 46.8 seconds for his 400m leg and gave Williams the stick with a lead over second place Minnesota. A replacement for the injured junior Russell Dinkins on the 800m leg, Williams found himself at the front of the biggest race of his life.
“I was the runner of the team that coach took the biggest risk on,” Williams said. “After Heps [assistant coach Steve Dolan] came up to me and said, ‘You’re up. It’s your turn to do something.’ ”
Rising to the challenge, Williams took off around the track. Holding his ground, Williams split a big personal best of 1:49.9 and kept his team right at the front of the race.
“I was definitely very nervous going in because I felt like I didn’t want to let the team down in any way, but I also wanted to be like, ‘Hey, I am a good runner and took the most of the shot that I had,’ ” Williams said.
Following the breakout performance from Williams, Callahan easily kept Princeton up with the leaders. As the pace lagged slightly in the middle laps, the lead pack bunched up before shooting out around the final lap of the 1,600m leg. Sprinting hard behind the anchors for Ohio State and Oregon, Callahan closed in third place in 4:00.1 to seal the Ivy League record time of 9:31.95. Combined with the results of the first heat, the Tigers finished eighth overall.
Back on the East Coast the next night, seniors Joe Stilin and Donn Cabral ran fast miles at the Columbia Last Chance Meet in New York. After chasing the four-minute barrier all season, Stilin finally snuck under the revered time, stopping the clock at 3:59.98 to become just the third Princeton runner in school history to break four. Just on the other side of 4:00, Cabral finished in an agonizingly close 4:00.30.
For Stilin, becoming the 376th member of America’s elite Sub-Four club was yet another astounding accomplishment in a dream senior season.
“Probably a year ago if you would ask me about breaking four, I would have said that it was one of maybe two or three life goals that I had,” Stilin said. “The fact that one of the biggest days of my life has already happened to me is just crazy to think about. I never thought I would be running this fast in college. It’s kind of like a kid-in-a-candy-store type of thing.”
With the warm weather and steadily increasing daylight hours, the Tigers are getting ready to move to the outdoor track. First, however, comes the NCAA national championship this weekend.
While the distance medley relay team just missed the automatic qualifying time, Princeton will be well represented, as both Cabral and Callahan will be competing in the national championship meet in Boise, Idaho. Cabral qualified in the 5,000m, the distance at which he set an Ivy League record of 13:45.92 earlier this winter. Meanwhile, Callahan, in his first NCAA appearance, will run the mile.