Track & Field: Men dominate Heps, complete 2nd straight triple crown
Taking control of those critical moments this past weekend at the Ivy League championships at Penn, the Tigers fought their way to the end, as the men closed the final chapter of a perfect season. After struggling through the frozen slush and snow of the freak October storm and fending off Cornell’s last desperate push at the indoor championships, Princeton finally pulled away to win its second straight triple crown Sunday as the Tigers shut the door on second-place Cornell, 193–161.75.
“Princeton always brings it on day two of Heps, and that happened big time this time. We got a lot more points than we were supposed to in so many events,” senior Joe Stilin said. “When you see success, it breeds success — that happens even in the middle of a meet. I really don’t know how we beat Cornell by more than they were projected to beat us by.”
As they did at the indoor championship, the Princeton men tore out to an early lead on Saturday. Destroying the rest of the field by over 40 feet, sophomore Conor McCullough set a new meet record in the hammer throw, hurling it 72.13 meters. Freshman Adam Bragg took a second-place finish in the pole vault, while seniors Dave Slovenski and Derek Hynes came in right behind to total 17 points.
Princeton’s distance squad took to the track in the 10,000m to begin its assault in the longer events. Calmly pacing himself behind Brown’s Dan Lowry, senior co-captain Donn Cabral bided his time over the long 25-lap race. Sitting on Lowry’s shoulder all the way until the final 150 meters, Cabral swung wide and exploded down the home stretch with which he was so familiar after last weekend’s Penn Relays. Continuing to gap Lowry and the rest of the field, Cabral tore through the finish line in 29 minutes, 32.92 seconds. Picking up more points behind him, classmate Brian Leung placed fifth in 29:38.22 with sophomore Alejandro Arroyo Yamin finishing next.
Continuing to push on Sunday, Princeton once again pounded the rest of the Ivy League in the distance events. The Tigers buried the rest of the field in the steeplechase, scoring 21 points. Two-time NCAA runner-up Cabral easily ran away to win in 8:43.59, while freshman Eddie Owens — after a series of subpar races — stepped up to place third, with senior Tyler King right behind.
In the 800m, sophomore Michael Williams, Princeton’s lone qualifier, ran a gutsy race to grab second place in a fast 1:49.53 personal best. Following suit in the 1,500m, senior Trevor van Ackeren placed second in 4:03.41 in a slow and tactical race to pick up eight valuable points, as Stilin added a few more in fifth place.
“The 1,500 was a little bit disappointing; I wanted to be a little higher than fifth,” Stilin said. “It took a little bit to pull myself together, but I think I turned it around pretty quick mentally. I knew the team needed me to get it together for the 5K.”
Completing the distance events with the 5,000m, Stilin came back to the track with a vengeance. Driving hard over the final lap, the new school record holder claimed his first individual Ivy League title, crossing the line in 14:05.62 to hold off Lowry of Brown.
While the distance-heavy Tigers hauled in points in the longer events, fighters came from every discipline, as the Tigers had to hold off Cornell’s strong push in the sprints and field events.
“The crowd, people doing so well in all different events, just got the team really pumped up,” Stilin said. “In all areas, we got Cornell by more than we were expected to. The team came together.”
Leading the sprinters on the track, Hopkins placed second in the 200m in 21.19 seconds and won the 400m in a blazing time of 46.43 seconds.
In the field, Princeton’s triple jumpers got to work, as sophomore Damon McLean and senior Garner McCloud placed first and second, with McLean reaching 51 feet on his fifth attempt. Breaking up a mass of red and white vests in the 110m hurdles, junior Ricky Sheldon placed third, with freshman Rob Mohr following in fifth.
Princeton split the points in the decathlon, crushing Cornell’s hopes of a comeback, as freshman Stephen Soerens and Sheldon placed third and fourth respectively. Princeton raced well in the relays to close the books on the 2012 Heps championship.
While the women’s hopes for another triple crown were ended back in October, Princeton showed the best form of the year. Charging hard over the final day of the championships, the Tigers scored 134 points to place second to Cornell, which had 158.
Establishing absolute supremacy over the shorter distances, senior co-captain Eileen Moran won both the 100m and 200m events. Moran’s meet was far from over, as she teamed up twice more to set Princeton records in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.
Following the leading legs of junior Abidemi Adenikinju, junior Erin Guty and freshman Emily Easton, Moran brought the baton home to win the 4x100m in 46.03 seconds, breaking the old record that the foursome set earlier this season. In the 4x400m, sophomore Carrie Vuong, freshman Cecilia Barowski, junior Joie Hand and Moran continued their progressing of setting and resetting the school record. Hand, the anchor, couldn’t quite catch the Big Red women but stopped the clock at 3:40.26 in second place.
While it could not ultimately match Cornell’s depth, Princeton had no shortage of individual champions, as the Tigers continued to win in all areas of the meet.
Taking control of the 800m final, junior Greta Feldman surged to win in 2:06.22. Feldman came back shortly after to take second place behind Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth in a wild and fast 1500m final, then returned in the 4x800m with classmate Alexis Mikaelian and sophomores Molly Higgins and Kacie O’Neil. Running hard, the squad pulled away from a strong Dartmouth team and took first place in a new program record of 8:38.05.
Capping three straight years of unparalleled pole vault success, junior Tory Worthen defended her Ivy League title yet again, clearing 12 feet, 10 inches. Her main competition proved to be none other than her teammates, as junior Lauren Tauscher took second while junior Bianca Reo tied for third.
After placing 19th at cross-country nationals, garnering two All-America honors at indoor NCAAs, winning two Penn Relays titles and achieving the coveted triple crown for the second straight year, the 2011-12 season has been one of the greatest periods in Princeton men’s track and field history.
“I think we’re going to leave a little bit of a footprint at Princeton on the track team,” Stilin said. “An expectation that Princeton is going to win Heps, win Penn Relays wheels and all that stuff.”
With one of the largest groups of NCAA regional qualifiers ever, the Tigers are set to converge upon the rest of the nation in a few weeks at the East Regional on May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I’m just glad to be part of this and part of the Class of 2012,” Stilin said. “Everyone is just really proud. Princeton as a track team and a distance team is approaching a new national caliber level. It’s just really cool.”