The track and field team has set a high bar for itself over the last few weeks, so it was with some disappointment that the Light Blue shuffled out of the Armory on Saturday evening, resigned to what head coach Willy Wood called “a pretty average meet for us.”
For the first time this season, Columbia was up against national competition, and it showed in the results. Despite posting a handful of personal bests, the Lions often trailed powerhouses like Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
Wood had named those two schools on Thursday as teams to look out for, so the finish didn't take the Lions by surprise—but it certainly left them wanting more.
“We had some kids compete for us very well, but I don't think we competed at the level we're capable of,” Wood said. “I'm not sure exactly why we didn't compete as well, because we were on a pretty significant upward trajectory. I don't know.”
On Thursday, Wood had said he was particularly looking forward to seeing junior Dan Everett in the 3,000 meters, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the two-day Armory Collegiate Invitational. Everett, finishing second in 8:01.01, broke his old record by more than six seconds.
“That's a big PR for Dan,” Wood said.
Other athletes who set personal records include junior Dan Nestor in the 1,000 meters, senior Harry McFann in the 800 meters, and junior Nadia Eke in the triple jump.
But the Lions didn't reach their full potential this week. They withdrew from the women's distance medley relay (DMR)—a race in which Wood has said the team has a good shot at qualifying for NCAAs—because of a sustained injury to junior Waverly Neer's Achilles. Wood had cautioned on Thursday that Neer still might not be ready to run.
“It was a missed opportunity,” Wood said. “We're just going to have to decide if we'll try it maybe in two weeks.” That would be the Notre Dame Invitational, at which Wood was already planning on entering the men in the DMR.
In races they did run, the Lions weren't quite firing on all cylinders. Although it was enough to advance her to the semifinals of the 60-meter dash, 7.58 seconds was slow for senior Marvellous Iheukwumere. If she'd run her PR of 7.46, which she set two weeks ago, she would have finished sixth in the finals.
In the women's 800, Columbia took ninth, 10th, and 11th out of 12 spots, with senior and school record holder Trina Bills three seconds off her personal best. And in the women's 4x4, junior Nicole Bauer lost a commanding lead set by sophomore Jaycee Parker in the second leg. Wood estimated that the quartet was some 10 seconds slower than the school record in the relay.
On Saturday, Columbia also sent a smaller and predominantly younger delegation to Yale for the Giegengack Invitational, giving many first-years some decent race experience. Both the men and women had strong finishes in the 3,000, and first-year Brianna Lenehan won the 1,000 in 2:55.04—just beating the time that Columbia's top finisher, senior Danika Simonson, posted the day before at the Armory.
When the whole team reconvenes on Monday, Wood said it will need to have a discussion.
“We'll talk probably a lot about being really in tune to competing and not worrying about other things,” he said. “Whether it's being in the heat you want to be in, or whether the pace was the right pace that you wanted or not.”
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