Track & Field: Callahan, Cabral run top-8 times at NCAAs
Going into the bell lap of the NCAA mile championship final, junior Peter Callahan sat comfortably in eighth place. After a relatively slow and tactical first half, the race was shaping up to favor Callahan and his devastating kick. At the front of the bunched pack, Chris O’Hare of Tulsa and Miles Batty of BYU began to move, spurring the star-studded field of sub-four minute milers into high gear. Driving forward, Callahan struggled to find an opening in the crowd before finally moving out into the outside lanes off of the final turn and sprinted to a sixth-place finish and his first All-American honor.
“The race was very tactical, so positioning was the most important thing,” Callahan said. “The sharper turns of an indoor track make it a little tougher to navigate the field, but I learned a lot, and I think this experience will make me a better racer in the long run. I got a little jammed up a few times, but was happy that I was able to move up in the latter parts of the race.”
Finishing a second behind the winner O’Hare, Callahan crossed the line in four minutes, 2.66 seconds, earning Princeton three points. Competing at over 2,500 feet of elevation at Boise State University and after taking the first 800 meters out in 2:05, Callahan’s ran an impressive time, but his sixth-place finish at the very top of NCAA is what sets him apart. Turning back fellow competitors such as 3:56 miler Eric Van Ingen of Binghampton, as well as 3:55 miler David McCarthy of Providence, Callahan proved that he is now at a level where he can mix it up with the best.
“It was awesome to have the opportunity to race against that level of competition and I'm really happy to come away from my first NCAAs with an All American,” Callahan said. “Getting All-American has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I'm just really grateful I was able to get it done this weekend.”
Joining Callahan at the championships, senior co-captain Donn Cabral ran a strong and hard race of his own in the 5000m to garner his own All-American honors for the first time indoors.
Starting off slowly, the field stayed together through the first mile, crossing 1600 meters in just under 4:30. Starting to ratchet the pace higher, a group of several runners began to pull away. In pursuit, Cabral assumed control of the chase group and slowly regained ground on those who did not survive the hot pace up front.
“There were four or five of the best 5K runners in NCAA history in my race,” Cabral said. “A few laps into the race when the leaders started to take off and gaps started to form as the pack spread out, I set my sights on the race for All-American honors.”
Running the second mile 10 seconds faster than the first, Cabral passed 3200 meters in 8:50, catching up with Hassan Mead of Minnesota. Sticking together, the two continued to reel off 33- and 34-second 200-meter splits.
At the front of the race, Chris Derrick from Stanford and Lawi Lalang of Arizona waged an exciting battle over the final half-mile. Almost pulling off an amazing upset, Derrick finished second to the Kenyan native Lalang, as Lalang broke the meet record with a time of 13:25.11. Derrick finished right behind in 13:26.88.
Kicking hard over the final 200 meters, Cabral split 30.67 seconds to finish in 13:53.14. He placed eighth overall, earning a point for Princeton as well as his seventh All-American status — adding to those from cross country and outdoor track.
“I’m much happier with my performance this weekend than an eighth place would usually make me,” Cabral said. “The competition was amazing, the race tactics were challenging and I left very proud of the aggression I showed. I finished the race feeling more exhausted than I have post-race in a long time.”
As Princeton moves into the outdoor season, the past weekend concludes one of the greatest indoor seasons in Princeton track and field history. Since December, the Tigers have set Ivy League records in the pole vault, weight throw, 3000m and 5000m as well as run several top-10 all-time miles. With two All-American performances and several other Tigers who were right on the bubble of making NCAA appearances, the men have continued to show since cross country that Princeton has moved into a permanent place in the upper levels of the NCAA.
“There aren’t too many teams sending two athletes to indoor nationals,” Cabral said. “We had [senior] Joe Stilin, [senior] Dave Slovenski and a [distance medley relay] all on the cusp of qualifying, with several others close as well — not to mention [sophomore] Conor McCullough, who had the number-one mark in the weight throw in the country but opted not to participate.”
Building off of the success of the indoor season, the Tigers are going outdoors with high aspirations and expectations. In addition to the final Ivy League championship, there are also the Penn Relays and the big show outdoors at the NCAA championships for which many of the Princeton athletes have big goals.
“Our team is coming along very nicely,” Cabral said. “With good health and reasonable progressions through the spring, we’ll definitely be a force come postseason.”