Two teams. One date. One mission.
When the men's and women's track teams travel to Cambridge, Mass. this weekend to battle traditional rivals Harvard and Yale in the annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, they will both be looking to step up and send the message that they are the teams to beat in the upcoming Heptagonal Championships Feb. 28.
But in order to send this message, they must first get past some strong competition from Harvard and Yale.
The women, as usual, will look to senior Nicole Harrison to set the standard, as she hopes to break 7.5 seconds in the 55-meter hurdles and cruise to victory on Harvard's fast track.
But aside from individual laurels, the meet is more importantly about the team coming together.
"This is a meet where the team gets to bond and see where they are in the season," Harrison said. "It's a boost-me-up meet."
While Princeton should battle it out with Harvard for the team title, Yale might be the deciding factor in the meet. The Bulldogs will surely take some crucial points away from both teams.
"Harvard is going to give us a real tussle," women's head coach Peter Farrell said.
The 400 meters could, like last week, be a turning point in the meet. The junior tandem of Bynia Reed and Allison Brown has been running well, but Harvard counters with Marta Schutte, who has run 55 seconds.
Senior Michelle D'Agostino and the other 800 runners should garner points, as should strong running junior Heather Onuma in the mile and junior Betsey Packard in the 3,000 meters.
Senior captain Hadiya Green, who has been battling injuries, still hopes to take the triple jump and the long jump events, but will be challenged by Harvard's Hun-garian superstar Dora Gyorffy.
Gyorffy's specialty is not in the horizontal jumps, but in the high jump, where she jumped six feet, four inches in high school.
Freshman Rebecca Desman, who has been extremely impressive this season, will be hard-pressed to defeat Gyorffy, but should score points for the Tigers.
Due to the equal strengths of both teams, the meet may come down to the final events – the relays.
"It will be a dog fight," Farrell said. "There's some tough competition across the board in this meet."
The men's track team will also face tough competition this weekend, and will need to have a good performance to prepare for Heptagonals.
"When it comes time for Heps, we'll have much more confidence about dealing with Penn if we can beat up on Harvard and Yale," senior Pete Kimball said.
The thin squad has been hampered by the flu bug and by injury. Nevertheless, a strong performance and victory is in its grasp.
"This is a very important meet for us," head coach Fred Samara said. "The competition will be excellent. They have a number of people who are tremendous who will score some points."
The Tigers are particularly strong in the 800 meters and the mile. They will look to Kimball to lead the way in the 800, but should also get help from freshman Biren Roy. For his part, Kimball hopes to run under one minute, 50 seconds. Senior James Colling should also secure points for the Tigers in the mile.
The other strengths of the Tigers are in the pole vault and the high jump, where they will be led by junior Dan Shimooka and senior Dave Genetti.
But as Samara said, "you can't rely on just a couple of guys."
While the Tigers are strong in the middle and longer distances, they need the hurdlers and especially the sprinters to step up.
400 meter runners, juniors Royce Reed and Brandon Delley, might not be able to make the trip this weekend, as Reed is recovering from a hernia operation and Delley has battled illness.
Injuries may hamper the Tigers' performance in the field events, particularly the shot-put.
For the Tigers to win, they need to overcome their health problems.
"This is the time of year where you expect people to put up good performances," Samara said.