The women’s and men’s track and field teams put forth valiant efforts against the rest of the Ancient Eight at the Heptagonal Championships this weekend, with both squads earning a top-five finish. The Light Blue rebounded from lackluster showings at Heps in 2012, as the women reached the podium for second place, while the men were narrowly edged by Brown to finish in fourth.
It was the men’s best showing at the championships since 1938, while the women matched their performance in 2005. The squads brought home 21 top-six finishes from a range of running and field events.
After the first day of competition, the women were tied for fourth place with Penn, behind Cornell, Brown, and Princeton. By the end of the second day, the women had reached second place with 121 points, a mere 25 points shy of the Big Red, which won its second consecutive title.
The men headed into the second day in fourth place and had strong performances early on to move into the third spot. They clung to third place until the final event of the meet, the 4x400-meter relay, but were overtaken by the Bears and finished with 73 points, placing them behind Princeton, Cornell, and Brown.
For the women, one of the Lions’ multiple first-place finishes belonged to senior Uju Ofoche, who dominated the long jump and became the first athlete in program history to win three straight titles in the event. Ofoche was joined by her teammates Nadia Eke, a sophomore, and QueenDenise Okeke, a fellow senior, who took third and fifth respectively.
Junior Marvellous Iheukwumere took home the final two individual first-place finishes for the women in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. She was also a member of the top-finishing 4x100-meter relay team, along with teammates Ofoche and freshmen Iris Chijioke and Jaycee Parker.
Another first-place finish came from sophomore Waverly Neer, who continued her triumphant comeback from an injury with a top finish in the 5,000-meter run and third place in the 3,000-meter run. Senior Erin Gillingham contributed to the long distance success as well, taking third place in the 1,500-meter run. Junior Trina Bills had her own third-place finish in the 800-meter run.
Chijioke contributed points on her own with a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles, as did Parker, who took fourth in the 200-meter dash, just behind senior Sharay Hale in third. Hale also claimed fourth in the 400-meter dash.
The Light Blue men had their own successes at Heps, though their results were concentrated predominantly in the mid-distance and distance events, which sophomore Conor Claflin said are the team’s strength.
Claflin led the way in the 800-meter run with a second-place finish and combined with juniors John Gregorek and Harry McFann, and sophomore Brendon Fish for a top finish in the 4x800 relay.
Gregorek had an individual top finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as well.
“Our performances at Penn Relays helped support how well everyone’s training has been going thus far,” junior Joseph Kotran said. “I think it helped boost our confidence and proved that we can be competitive with any team in the nation.”
The Lions’ final top finish came from junior Duncan Dickerson, who is the first Columbia athlete in program history to win the hammer throw.
With the 2013 Ivy League championships in the books, the Lions will continue to look to improve against their national competition. Their results at this meet should assure them that they are moving in the right direction.
“We are all in great shape, and we need to trust that we are capable of racing against anyone,” Kotran said. “We’ve all been training together as a family for a while now.”
“As long as everyone stays healthy and sticks to our usual routine, everyone should be looking to run fast times in the upcoming races,” he added.
The Light Blue will return to Princeton next weekend for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference/IC4A Championships.