Yale’s outdoor track and field squads surprised themselves Saturday as they showcased competitive scores, record times, and comeback specials from long-injured athletes. But for both teams, roster holes in key field events fanned down the hot streak quickly.
The women were at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, up against Penn and Princeton. Though they finished in third place, the difference between the Bulldogs and second place Princeton was a matter of a point: 63-64. Penn dominated the field events to come away with 75 points and the victory.
“There are a number of places where you can find a point,” head coach Mark Young said of the close finish behind Princeton. “Any flip-flop [in the track finishes] would have done it.”
Young said that despite his team’s deficiencies in the field events — Yale has only one javelin-thrower-in-training and nobody to throw the hammer, shot put, or discus — his expectations remain high.
“On the track, we scored more than the other two teams combined,” he said. “Our overall score was more a function of us giving up 44 points in the throws, which hasn’t changed since day one.”
Lindsay Mitchell ’03 was one returning asset for the Bulldogs. A lower back injury kept her out of the season until Saturday, but her steeplechase run at Penn was good for second place, behind teammate Anne Martin ’05. Martin won with a time of 11:17.7, while Mitchell clocked in ten seconds later.
“Things were looking on the brighter side at this meet,” Mitchell said. “But just because we know we’re going into every meet with this automatic point deficit, that doesn’t make it satisfying to come in third.”
Other highlights included a personal best — and a new Yale record by a full 8 seconds– for Kate O’Neill ’03 in the 1,500-meter run. She narrowly finished second to Princeton’s Lauren Simmons in 4:28.66.
“For Kate that’s a short race. You have to remember, she’s an All-American in the 3,000 meters,” Young said.
In that event, Kate’s twin sister Laura O’Neill ’03 mirrored her sister’s sweet finish and close loss in the 1,500, missing first place to a Princeton runner by just one second. Her time was 9:49.09, and teammate Amanda Brewster ’03 placed third in 10:08.44.
These triumphs helped Yale’s score along, but after the sprinting and shorter distance events, the Bulldogs had amassed all the points they would get that day, and in fine form.
Anika Kreider ’03 won the 400-meter race in 57.48 and Stephanie Blake ’05 got third in 58.08. Rebecca Dickens ’04 stole the 800 meter race away by a chasing Tiger in to finish first in 2:14.05, before Vanessa Mazandi ’05 grabbed fourth in the next second to secure that all-important single point for Yale.
Sikira Backus ’02 extended a stellar senior year on the track one meet further. She won both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, in 12.29 and 25.10 seconds, respectively, and anchored Yale’s blowout victory in the 4 x 100-meter relay.
Candance Arthur ’05, who was also on the relay team, nearly tied Backus in the 200-meters, finishing the race in 25.39.
“I was glad that a lot of people went in taking this meet seriously, expecting to win,” Backus said. “We might be able to win [the Heptagonal Championship] now, which is something we weren’t thinking about before.”
The men’s team, meanwhile, struggled at the Columbia Invitational in New York City. Though places were not handed out at the meet’s end, many team members were missing in a lackluster performance for the Bulldogs.
But there were exceptions in both the track and field events.
Jordan Chapman ’05 won the high jump for Yale, clearing 1.93 meters without a hitch. Derin Bray ’04 took second from 1.88 meters off the ground.
On the track, Robert Lobue ’04 finished fifth in an extremely close pack of 800 meter racers. His time of 1.54.55 was only a blink more than a second behind the race’s final winner, Nnamdi Okike, from Harvard.