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Princeton Track and Field look for Ivy League Championship

The men and women’s track and field teams are scheduled to kick off the indoor winter season on Dec. 2 at the Metro Holiday Meet in Staten Island. While the men are aiming to tackle long-time rival Cornell for the Ivy League title, the women are ready to take on the Ivy League, armed with an entirely new coaching staff and the return of two accomplished athletes.

Feeding off last year’s indoor championship win, junior sprinter and Ivy League Champion Carrington Akosa succinctly stated that the collective goal for the upcoming season is “to become Ivy League champions both in the indoor and outdoor season. Also, we are expected to send more people to nationals this season.”

Akosa is also confident in the team’s underclassmen’s ability to contribute to this quest for the Ivy League title. “Watch out for our freshmen, especially Joey Daniels, a short hurdler from Canada – he will prove to be the best hurdler the Ivy League has seen in its history,” Akosa stated. “Charlie Volker is another strong force on the team and we expect a lot from the sophomore. Adam Kelly, a sophomore hammer thrower, is another force to reckon with. Least to say, we have a lot of talents on the team and we are super excited.”

Cornell, however, has posed a consistent barrier between the Tigers and the championship title. Senior sprinter Bryant Switzer describes how this rivalry helped to set the foundation for the team’s mentality heading into the winter season. “Our rival was Cornell, and we came out and won almost every event at the indoor championship, and set a bunch of track records, but they won the title for outdoor. That set the mindset for this year: staying focused, being ready to go, and staying healthy.”

Leading the team is a trio of NCAA Regional Qualifiers and Ivy League Champions that includes, senior hurdler and jumper Greg Leeper, senior shot put thrower Chris Cook, and senior high jumper Xavier Bledsoe.

Coaching the Tigers are Jason Vigilante, newly appointed Robert Abdullah, and Fred Samara, who is entering his 34th season as the William M. Weaver Jr. ’34 Head Coach of Men’s Track and Field.

While the men are looking to the guidance of a familiar staff, the women have been equipped with five new coaches after the retirement of 39-year veteran Peter Farrell. Joining the program are assistant coaches Brad Hunt and Reuben Jones, and head coach Michelle Eisenreich. Eisenrich came to Princeton after leading Stanford to four NCAA team top ten finishes in four years.

Senior distance runner Alexandra Markovich describes the new coaches as “full of energy and making the team committed in a way that I’ve never seen it in my time.”

Captaining the team are senior mid-distance runner Elisa Steele, junior thrower Kennedy O’Dell, and senior pole vaulter and hurdler Allison Harris, all of whom hold Ivy League champion titles.

Junior distance runner Melissa Reed, who just concluded an impressive cross country season as one of Princeton’s top runners, describes the team’s expectation to claim the Ivy League this winter with the help of a new sense of team solidarity. “We always want to win the Ivy League title. The whole team is going to be coming into the season in such good shape and ready to clinch the Ivy League title for indoor. I think one of the big things we’re really focusing on is making sure that we’re not only a team within our event group, but a holistic team. That’s the type of mentality and work ethic that we’ve demonstrated that will allow us to win the Ivy League title.”

Reed also identifies Harvard as the main obstacle to achieving this title. “A big thing in cross country and track is the Triple Crown, which is winning cross country, indoor, and outdoor. We really have our eye out for Harvard, who just won cross country, and we definitely want to block them from getting the Triple Crown.”

Following a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Indoor Track and Field Championships, the Tigers lost key mid-distance runners, including NCAA finalist and Olympic hopeful Cecilia Barowski. Freshman mid-distance runner Madeleine Sumner is expected to step up to the plate, while freshman jumpers Hadley Wilhoite, Maia Hauschild, Kayla Dobies, and Carson Brisk are predicted to earn the Tigers more points on the field.

Princeton is also hoping to rake in more points from returners Julia Ratcliffe, who is a former NCAA champion in the hammer throw, and junior All-American and Ivy League champion distance runner Megan Curham.

The first home meet, the New Year Invitational, is scheduled for Dec. 11  at Jadwin Gymnasium. Switzer expresses the need for encouragement from the student body. “We have a lot of home meets for indoor and outdoor, and we would love to get some people out there for support.”