Destination Des Moines

Click here for the HepsTrack Guide to the 2012 NCAA Championships

Heps will send 22 21 athletes and an alum to the NCAA Championships to be held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, from Wednesday to Saturday. Here’s a look at that group:

Donn Cabral
Princeton Tigers • Steeplechase

Cabral is simply the greatest steeplechaser the Ivy League has ever known … Sure, he had two NCAA runner-up performances under his belt already, but the Glastonbury, Conn., native removed any remaining doubt when he broke the American College Record in the event, clocking 8:19.14 at the Oxy High Performance meet in California in mid-May … That came after he swept the Heps’ steeple and 10k run for the third straight season … Track & Field News has installed him as the favorite in the event and his Oxy time makes him a strong contender for the U.S. Olympic team at the Trials later this month … Now a senior, Cabral qualified for the NCAA Championships by winning his section in 8:38.41, thus claiming an automatic qualifier to the semifinals in Des Moines … The Tigers have not had a national champion on the track since Bill Bonthron won the mile in 1934!

Abbey D’Agostino
Dartmouth Big Green • 5,000m run

To win the 5,000-meter run in Des Moines, D’Agostino would need to beat Villanova star Sheila Reid … The prognosticators at Track & Field News don’t think she can do it — selecting the sophomore second to Reid — but she can not be counted out … As a freshman she went to the NCAA Championships as something of an unknown and shocked everyone by running 15:40 to take third in the event … That matched both the highest finish ever for a Big Green woman or an Heps’ female 5k runner … This year she has lowered her personal-best to 15:23.35 at the famed Mount Sac Relays … Only one collegian — Colorado’s Jessica Tebo — has run faster in 2012 … At Heps, AbDag broke three meet records — the 1,500m twice (settling for 4:17.90 in the final) as well as the 3,000m (9:24.64) … She qualified for the NCAA Championships by winning her regional section in an unspectacular 16:15.35.

Kyle Merber
Columbia Lions • 1,500m run

If Merber were to pull off an NCAA Championship to finish his collegiate career, it would be the best story of the meet … That’s because as a sophomore he ran sub-four indoor and then advanced to the 1,500m final at NCAA Outdoors (finishing 10th) … Then came a career-threatening injury … On a summer run back home on Long Island, he stepped on a broken bottle, which pierced his shoe and wiped out his junior year … In fact, there were times when he began to wonder if he’d run competitively again … Well, this year he ran sub-four again, but really found himself the talk of the college track world when he popped a remarkably 3:35.59 American College Record at a last chance meet at Swarthmore College … Yet with such a loaded field in this event, Track & Field News picked him fifth after he earned an auto qualifier at the East Regional, taking third in the fastest section (3:45.89) … Merber — who is heavily featured in Erik Van Ingen’s documentary ‘The Real Maine’ — plans to compete as a graduate student for the Texas Longhorns next year … So do two other stellar Ivy milers who will compete at NCAAs — Princeton’s Trevor Van Ackeren and Joe Stilin.

Alexi Pappas
Dartmouth Big Green • Steeplechase

In many ways Pappas found the perfect time to have a breakout season … She was able to break records and become a threat for a national title without the glare of the spotlight, thanks to teammate Abbey D’Agostino … But she also hasn’t gotten the due praise (although Track & Field News does pick her to finish fourth at the Championships) … She and her Big Green team took third in the NCAA indoor distance medley relay in March, but her individual stock took off this spring … The senior first posted a sub-10 steeple at the Mount Sac Relays and has not looked back, running a meet-record 9:58.80 at Outdoor Heps and then 9:55.89 at the East regional.

Maalik Reynolds
Penn Quakers • High jump

Last year, as just a freshman, Reynolds became the Red and Blue’s first All-America high jumper since 1955 despite leaping five inches below his season best at nationals … This season he has been pushed in League competition for the first time by Cornell’s Montez Blair, but has come out ahead in Heps championships as he tries to join Tora Harris of Princeton as the League’s only eight-time winner of the high jump … Although he has not matched his career-best 7-5 3/4 this year, the folks in the know at Track & Field News have picked him to take sixth in Des Moines.

Greta Feldman
Princeton Tigers • 1,500m run

Feldman’s late-season breakout was so dramatic it was unexpected … She had run in the 2:06s for 800m for the better part of a year and had dipped just below 4:20 in the 1,500m … But suddenly since mid-May, she has created a whole new set of expectations … It started at the ECAC Championships when she ran 2:03.65 in the 800m final, joining the likes of Meredith Rainey, Morgan Uceny and Kate Grace in the Heps’ all-time top five … Then at the East regional, she ran the fastest 1,500m time in the quarterfinals — faster than the West region winner as well — with a time of 4:15.00 … Now the junior is picked seventh in the NCAA metric mile by Track & Field News … Will her great May extend into June?

Joe Stilin
Princeton Tigers • 5,000m run

Stilin may have had the best indoor season that wound up unrewarded by the NCAA in Ivy history … He ran sub-four in the mile and 7:53 in the 3k, but was on the outside looking in when the NCAA qualifiers were announced … But the senior has left no doubt this outdoor season … He has run two of the fastest times in Heps’ history this spring — 3:39.42 in the 1,500m (second) and 13:38.36 in the Mount Sac 5k (sixth) … Stilin won the Heps 5,000m run and earned a Championship of America in the 4xMile at the Penn Relays … The P-town senior ran 14:01.37 at East regionals to earn his spot in the NCAA Championships field … Track & Field News picks him eighth in the 5k in Des Moines.

Katie Kellner
Cornell Big Red • 10,000m run

Kellner didn’t wait long to establish herself nationally in the 10k this season, running sub-33 at the Stanford Invitational in early April … With that run, she became just the fifth Ivy League to run in the 32s, joining Yale’s O’Neill twins, Caroline Bierbaum of Columbia and Lindsey Scherf of Harvard … If she could pin down a top eight finish — Track & Field News picks her ninth — she’d be the first distance runner from Cornell to do so since 1994 … Kellner racked up 18 points at Outdoor Heps, winning the 10k and taking second in the 5,000m before claiming her slot in Des Moines with the third-best 10k time of the East regional (34:22.98).

Nico Weiler
Harvard Crimson • Pole vault

If Weiler earns All-America status at the NCAA Championships, it won’t be the first time … As a freshman he cleared 17-6 1/2 in the national finals to take sixth and become the first Heps’ vaulter to claim a top-eight finish since 1973 … That includes the late Mamadou Johnson of Penn, still the only Ivy Leaguer to clear 18 feet … Weiler seems poised to join Johnson if the weather cooperates … The native of Germany has vaulted higher than 17-4 in five meets this spring, including a career-best 17-7 3/4 in winning the IC4A Championship … That steadiness resulted in Track & Field News picking him to finish ninth at NCAAs, although he expects to little more than that.

Eric Berg
Brown Bears • 1,500m run

This trip to Des Moines is icing on the cake for Berg, who not only failed to qualify for the final at Outdoor Heps, he ran the second-worst preliminary time of the 25 runners there … The next week the sophomore popped a personal-best 3:44.57 at a meet in Boston and found himself heading to the NCAA East regionals … Berg advanced to the quarterfinal there out of the slow heat (with Kyle Merber and Mark Feigen of Columbia) … Then he landed one of the two at-large semifinal spots from the East by hanging on … An amazing journey the young Seattle, Wash., native would like to continue.

Montez Blair
Cornell Big Red • High jump

After a journey that took him initially to the Naval Academy, Blair became a basketball star at an Iowa Junior College before reaching school-record heights in the high jump at Cornell … He cleared the 7-foot barrier at 13 of the 14 meets he competed this year, including a season-best 7-3 1/4 in his college debut in December … He would match that mark outdoor at the Penn Relays … Blair and Penn All-American Maalik Reynolds have been pushing one another all season long … If both could break into the scoring at the NCAA Championships, it would be the first time the League has had two All-American high jumpers in the same meet since 1964.

Nadia Eke
Columbia Lions • Triple jump

As the 20th seed heading into the East regional, it was supposed to be a long, nervous afternoon for Eke … After all, only 16 would get additional leaps and then only 12 would advance to Des Moines … But the freshman busted a huge wind-aided 43-8 1/2 on her first leap of the day and wound up with four practice jumps before passing her final attempt … She was fourth overall to advance to nationals … She has already won two Heps titles — indoor and outdoor — and become just the third Ivy Leaguer to jump 42 feet both with and without a roof … The other two are Jeomi Maduka (Cornell) and Brittany Grovey (Brown).

Genna Hartung
Cornell Big Red • Steeplechase

Hartung has been on a roll as of late and joining the sub-10 club is in her future … As it is, her 10:10.55 qualifier to the NCAAs is already among the top five in League history … That select group includes three Olympic hopefuls in Ashley Higginson (Princeton), Anna Willard Pierce (Brown) and Delilah DiCrescenzo (Columbia) … The junior had a breakthrough at the ECAC Championships, winning the steeple in a personal-best 10:18.40 … Then she saved her best for the NCAAs, breaking Stephanie Pancoast’s school record and advancing to Des Moines … Cornell has never had an NCAA scorer in this event.

Nick Huber
Cornell Big Red • Decathlon

Huber was one of those athletes who simply picked up points at Heps championships wherever they might be … In all — whether scoring in the sprints, jumps, hurdles or multi-events, the native Hoosier picked up nearly 100 points in his career … And, of course, his specialty was the event that requires no specialty — the decathlon … This year Huber has topped out at 7,632 points with both the NCAAs and the Olympic Trials ahead … That figure is third all-time in the League, not far from second … Closing his career by scoring in the decathlon at NCAAs would be historically significant … No Cornellian has ever done that.

Brian Leung
Princeton Tigers • 10,000m run

On a team of all-stars, Leung became something of a forgotten man after battling both injury and illness … But the 2010 cross country All-American rose up at the East regional to earn his spot in 10k field at the NCAA Championships … Now if he can match his personal-best of 29:09 at nationals, he could be in the hunt to score points for the Tigers … And Princeton will be looking for its best NCAA finish ever … In 1934 the Tigers were 14th at the NCAAs and that remains the program’s high-water mark … If Princeton can score enough on the men’s side, a top-10 finish would be the first by an Ivy school since 1969, when Frank Shorter scored all 18 points as Yale was 10th overall.

Mike Levine
Yale Bulldogs • Discus throw

Levine has picked up an awful lot of hardware in his specialty, the discus … The Outdoor Heps champion each of the last two years, he has won the event at the annual Harvard-Yale dual twice and claimed the title at Princeton’s Sam Howell Invitational … He snuck into the NCAA Championships as the 12th of 12 qualifiers from the East … He will need to throw a massive personal best to score in Des Moines, but if he can he’d be just the second Ivy Leaguer to do so in the discus in the last 40 years … The last one was Nick Sweeney of Harvard in 1992.

Dan Lowry
Brown Bears • 5,000m run

Does Lowry have what it takes to score in the 5k at the NCAA Championships? … Well, his season best time at Stanford — 13:34.49 — would have won the national title in 2009 and 2010 and taken third last season … So he has the speed, but also the strategic experience of running at Heps (where times frequently give way to cat-and-mouse games) … His 13:34.49 was so good that is was the fastest time recorded by an Ivy Leaguer in 27 years, dating back to Jim Sapienza of Dartmouth running about four seconds faster in 1985 … Lowry, a Philadelphia native, also posted one of the quickest qualifying times out of the East regional (14:02.36).

Harry McFann
Columbia Lions • 800m run

After failing to make the League final as a freshman, McFann has had a breakout season … He won the Outdoor Heps’ 800m run, followed by running anchor on the victorious 4x800m, which set an all-time Ivy best in 7:20.53 … McFann ran a personal-best 1:48.14 at Swarthmore the following week and then advanced to the NCAA Championships with solid preliminary- and quarterfinal-round efforts in Jacksonville, Fla. … His 1:48.78 in the quarterfinal was an automatic qualifier behind Penn State’s Cas Loxsom … Attention announcers: It is a pretty easy pronunciation — Mick-FANN.

Damon McLean
Princeton Tigers • Triple jump

Just a sophomore, McLean did exactly what any jumper needs to do at the NCAA regionals, hit a long one on the first leap to take the pressure off … Sailing 51-7 on his first triple attempt in Florida, he later extended it to 51-8 1/4 to take fifth place and move on to Des Moines … The Jamaica native has won three Heps titles and is poised to join the all-time greats, including three Ivy national champions in the triple — Columbia’s George Shaw (1952) and Rayon Taylor (2007) and Muhammad Halim of Cornell (2008) … Only the hammer throw has produce more Ivy champions (four).

Olivia Mickle
Brown Bears • 10,000m run

Mickle didn’t run competitively until her junior year in high school … After a brilliant senior year, she came to Brown and was immediately on the sidelines because of injury … Now, as a junior, she is heading to the NCAAs in the 10k, an event she has run just three times … She first ran the distance at the Stanford Invitational in April and she posted a sub-34 … She then took second to Cornell’s Katie Kellner at Outdoor Heps and finished ninth at the Eastern regional (34:30.12) to earn a spot at the Championships … That is a quick ascension at a school who’s only distance All-American has been Olympian Anna Willard Pierce in the steeplechase.

Trevor Van Ackeren
Princeton Tigers • 1,500m run

This is not Van Ackeren’s first trip to the NCAA Championships in the 1,500m run … He advanced to the semifinals as a sophomore, but didn’t advance to the finals … He hopes that he has more than one race left in his college career … Van Ackeren has won the Indoor Heps’ 1,000 and mile runs and finished as a runnerup to Columbia’s Kyle Merber in the 1,500m outdoor this season … At Swarthmore College this year, he, Merber and teammate Joe Stilin were all clocked sub-3:40 in the 1,500 — the first runners in Ivy history to break that barrier.

Adrien Dannemiller
Indiana Hoosiers • Steeplechase

No matter where the Heps Nation roams and for whom the member may roam, they are always supported by the Nation … Dannemiller graduated from Cornell after a successful track career … Now he is competing for his homestate Hoosiers.

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