The Princeton men’s track and field team captured its 17th Outdoor Heps title at the 82nd annual Outdoor Heps Championships held May 6 and 7 at Yale. With an entire team effort, the Tigers edged out second-place Cornell 156 to 149 points for its fifth title in the past seven years. Penn was a distant third with 86 points.
Going into the meet, Princeton knew it would be a true challenge, and every single member of the 36-man Heps team would count. On paper, Princeton wasn’t supposed to win, but the Tigers showed once again that pre-meet stats don’t really matter. It’s what they brought on competition day that truly counted.
Princeton started off with a great first day. Sophomore Adam Kelly began the day with a runner-up finish in the hammer throw along with a new personal record of 68.96m. In the long jump, senior captain Greg Leeper came up big to take third while beating two Cornell athletes. In the pole vault, senior Ben Gaylord scored by placing sixth, and junior August Kiles became an individual Heps Champion for the third time in his career with a clearance of 5.31m, a new outdoor personal record. In a very slow and tactical 10,000m run, senior William Bertrand finished runner-up. First-year Viraj Deokar also closed hard to take sixth and score. After day one, Princeton was in second, with 34 points, while Cornell led with 39 points.
Day two was a tug-of-war between Princeton and Cornell. Princeton scored big in a few events, but then Cornell came right back in others. Senior captain Xavier Bledsoe finished runner-up in the high jump. In the discus, junior Mitchel Charles finished runner-up with a toss of 53.13m, and senior Jared Bell placed third with a mark of 51.99m. Senior captain Chris Cook won his third individual Heps title with a victory in the shot put after a toss of 17.62m. Charles took runner-up in the shot put with a mark of 17.54m. In the triple jump, sophomore Stefan Amokwandoh jumped a personal record of 15.71m for a big third place finish. While the Tigers dominated the field events, Cornell fought well on the track.
On the track, the 4x100m relay team of sophomores and first years took third with a time of 40.99s. Charles Volker also placed runner-up in the 100m in 10.67s and fifth in the 200m in 21.71s. In the men’s 1500m, junior William Paulson ran a fast final 400m to finish runner-up in a time of 3:46.07. First-year Joey Daniels became an individual Heps champion for the first time with a wind-aided 13.88s in the 110m hurdles. In the men’s 400m, junior Josh Freeman dropped a full second of his previous best to run a new personal record of 47.02s and finish runner-up. In the 800m, junior Noah Kauppila scored with his sixth-place finish. In the 400m hurdles, Leeper became an individual Heps champion for the second consecutive year with a time of 52.05s. Junior Spencer Long finished runner-up, edging out a Dartmouth runner by just two thousandths of a second at the line.
Going into the final few events, Cornell was up, and the team relays would play a vital role in deciding the victor of the meet. The 4x800m relay took sixth in 7:32.71, while Cornell placed last. In perhaps the most exhilarating race of the meet, the Princeton 4x400m relay of sophomore Cole Bransford, senior Jabari Johnson, first-year Connor Matthews, and Freeman put it all on the line to place third in 3:12.30, just ahead of fourth-place Cornell.
Finally, the first-year athletes in the decathlon secured the win for Princeton since Cornell had no athletes in the decathlon. Harry Lord and Justice Dixon improved on day two to finish third and fifth.
It was coach Fred Samara’s 40th Ivy League title, and he reminded the team in an emotional meeting afterwards that it competed from the heart this weekend to beat the odds.