Doug Austin photo
Heps showed the track world what a force it has become this weekend, evidenced by its 35 entrants — including three alums — qualifying for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.
But while the celebration was League-wide, it was the Cornell Big Red who swept the headlines on Saturday. The Ithacans took down three all-time Heps’ records on the day.
After Penn sophomore Sam Mattis crept within 14 inches of Nick Sweeney’s 22-year-old discus record in the first round, Cornell junior All-American Stephen Mozia — most renown for his shot put acumen — broke that mark with a toss of 62.80 meters (206-0) to finish second. Mattis’ first-round throw held up for fourth at 62.13 (203-10).
Big Red sophomore Max Hairston then showed his growing talent in the 110-meter quarterfinals. He’d run a personal-best 13.85 in the prelims, but then blasted his way to Eugene by setting an all-time Heps mark of 13.74 in the quarters. The old mark of 13.79 was established in 2008 by another Cornellian, Saidu Ezike.
Hairston’s performance was rather stunning, but the Red’s women’s 4×400-meter truly delivered the drama. Florida set a hot pace in the first heat with the likes of Penn State, Duke, Clemson, Miami, Hampton and the Big Red chasing. Zena Kolliesuah (53.4) and Elyse Wilkinson (54.9) had run very well, but Ebolutalese Airwele had six teams in front of her at the second exchange.
Airewele toughed it out with a 53.32 carry, giving over to Udeme Akpaete in a deadheat tie with Hampton for the sixth spot. Taking sixth in the first heat was not desirable, but it would keep a shot at Oregon in play. Seventh would not. Akpaete made an incredible run — timed officially at 52.61 — holding off Hampton by less than a tenth of a second and nearly catching Miami.
The team’s 3:34.40 beat its own Heps’ record — set at ECACs earlier in the month — by more than a second. But now the Red was fully fixated on the times of the fourth-place finishers in the next two heats. The top three in each would qualify automatically. The last three spots would be determined by time and Cornell was sitting precariously on the bubble. Only Notre Dame ran a faster time in the second heat, so Cornell stayed safe. As the final heat hit the bell lap, it was clear that someone’s anchor needed to go sub-50 to knock Cornell out. It didn’t happen and the Big Red celebration caused Flotrack to notice and tweet the unexpected roar.
But in addition, 10 other Ivy undergrads and two grads would punch Eugene-bound tickets, pushing the total to 35 entries in the form of 34 athletes (Mozia will be doubling for the second year in a row). If you discount the three graduates now repping other schools (and we don’t), the League has 32 spots in Eugene. To put that into perspective, the Patriot League sent fewer athletes (30) to Jacksonville for the East preliminaries.
Here is a rundown of the other qualifiers:
• Princeton sophomore Adam Bragg had a ‘do-or-die’ moment. Eleven pole vaulters had cleared 5.32 meters (17-5 1/2), a height achieved by only three Hepsters in history. After missing twice, Bragg cleared on his final try and no one else remaining could.
• As expected, two sensational senior high jumpers — Cornell’s Montez Blair and Penn’s Maalik Reynolds — took an easy approach to Eugene. Blair was one of two jumpers who didn’t miss a jump, clearing 2.17 meters (7-1 1/2) to advance. Reynolds was one of two who missed just once en route to his qualifying clearance.
• Dartmouth had a huge haul in the two 5,000-meter runs. In the men’s prelims, sophomore Curtis King’s (14:11.75) late push in the first heat fell just short of an automatic berth, but he advanced when the second heat — which featured second-placer John Bleday (14:13.33) — was slower. King and Bleday, a junior, are the first Big Green men to advance to Nationals since 2008. Dartmouth also had two women — senior Abbey D’Agostino (15:57.37) and sophomore Dana Giordano (16:05.04) — who qualified. Giordano ran on D’Ags’ heels for much of the first 4,000 meters before the seven-time NCAA champion took off. But Giordano advanced with her fourth-place finish. Non-Green runners also advanced. Columbia junior Waverly Neer — took a women’s auto berth from the first heat in 15:58.91 and Harvard sophomore Tom Purnell grabbed the final men’s at-large spot in 14:14.95.
• In the 1,500-meter runs in Eugene, the Ivy League will be represented by a runner from Columbia and two from the University of New Mexico. Lion senior John Gregorek had the fastest quarterfinal time in the East prelims (3:45.27) while two Heps grads — former Princeton Tiger Peter Callahan and former Harvard Crimson Sammy Silva — advanced at the West meet in Fayetteville, Ark. Callahan had the second-fastest time (3:40.40), cruising in on the heels of Arizona All-American Lawi Lalang, while Silva was one of three Lobo women to earn an automatic berth to Eugene.