2014-15 Track Women of the Year

Throughout the 2015 track seasons, Harvard senior Danielle Barbian and Cornell junior Udeme Akpaete had numerous duels to determine who is the Queen of the Ivy Sprints.

Barbian (Sussex, Wis.) is a short sprint specialist.  She dominated the indoor 60m dash, resetting her own conference record multiple times this season until she hit her fastest time at Indoor Heps (7.40 seconds) to defend her conference crown. During the outdoor season, she claimed her first 100m dash title at Outdoor Heps while she claimed that record as her own – a speedy 11.59 seconds.

Akpaete (Silver Spring, Md.) is a long sprint specialist.  The 400 meter dash was all hers this year as she swept the indoor and outdoor titles at a Heps Championship (54.24 at Indoor Heps; 53.17 at Outdoor Heps). Her 400m times are among the fastest in conference history, and that is saying something as our record books include Olympians and All-Americans in those events.  In addition, Akpaete anchored the winning 4x440yd and 4x400m relays to times that are among the best in conference history.

While the two women are both members of their school’s 4×100 relays, they did not compete on the same relay leg. Akpaete was a strong 2nd leg for Cornell while Barbian anchored the speedy Harvard squad. These two 4×100 teams are among the fastest in conference history, but the current conference record and Outdoor Heps title goes to Cornell with their record of 45.21.

Their common ground – the 200m dash.

At Indoor Heps, Barbian and Akpaete did not get the opportunity to go directly “head-to-head” in the 200m final as they raced in two different final heats. But the champion was determined by the fastest overall time, and on that day, it belonged to Barbian who won in 24.03 – the fifth fastest indoor 200m time in conference history – as Akpaete ran 24.22 for third place overall – the ninth fastest indoor 200m in conference history (interesting factoid: I believe this was the fastest women’s indoor 200m final in conference history as the top 3 finishers are among the championship meet top 10). Barbian was awarded the Indoor Heps MVP for winning the 60m-200m double.

Outdoor Heps was a different story. Both women made the 200m final, where Akpaete had the fastest qualifying time and Barbian was the second auto qualifier from her preliminary heat. Both women ran faster in the finals, but Akpaete got her 200m revenge as she had the better finishing speed to claim the win in 23.78 – the fourth fastest in conference history. Barbian had to settle for third place with her 24.14. As an inverse of Indoor Heps, Akpaete was awarded the Outdoor Heps MVP honor as she claimed the 200m-400m-4×100-4×400 quad wins.

Outdoor Heps was the last time these women really got the opportunity to battle head-to-head for their undergraduate careers. Akpaete continued to have a spectacular outdoor season as she anchored Cornell’s 4×400 relay to the NCAA Championships while running a new conference record, 3:31.77. Barbian may have graduated last June, but she has one more outdoor season of eligibility that she will be using out at the University of Oregon this upcoming spring. Perhaps these women may get the chance to battle again?

Honorable Mention: Sometimes it seems like the long-distance runners could have an edge in these end-of-the-year honors as they can add on cross country results to their resume. Perhaps, but we do our best to weigh each of these specialties equally when we consider who to honor. Princeton sophomore Megan Curham has stepped into the vacant position of “Queen of Distance” with the graduation of Abbey D’Agostino. Curham won her first Heps title in cross country on her home course in miserable conditions, outkicking conference rival Dana Giordano of Dartmouth. Curham would later go on to improve her finish at NCAA Cross Country Championships by finishing 18th overall. Come the track seasons, Curham easily dominated the Indoor Heps 5,000m and Outdoor Heps 5,000m and 10km races as she had to essentially run fast solo runs in order to get marks that could qualify her for NCAAs. She would go on to finish 10th in the indoor 5,000m and 12th in the outdoor 10km distances at NCAAs, earning Second Team All-American honors in other seasons. We will have to wait until Fall 2016 to see her race again in a Princeton uniform as she is taking the year off for internship opportunities.

photo by Brian Panoff

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