Track records fall as league season nears

In the final rung of invitational-style competition for the indoor track and field teams, several Bulldogs earned themselves a spot in championship meets that follow the approaching two-week Ivy League season.

The men’s and women’s teams were in Boston this past weekend competing for regional — IC4A for the men and ECAC for the women — qualifying times at Boston University’s Valentine Invitational.

The prime performance for the women’s team came from Meredith Leenhouts ’08 in the 1,000-meter run, where she shattered previous records and her 50 opponents’ hopes of victory. Placing sixth in Yale’s all-time indoor records, Leenhouts won the event with a time of 2:53.85, over three seconds in front of the second-place finisher and ahead of the ECAC qualifying time of 2:57.54 by almost four seconds.

Leenhouts’ cross country teammate, Lindsay Donaldson ’08, who earned an ECAC qualifying time last week in the 3,000-meter run, finished in eighth place in the mile run in 4:52.42. A Reebok-affiliated competitor, Kim Smith, won the race with a time of 4:24.14 — reportedly the third fastest time in the event in the world this year.

Mary Kuder’s ’08 performance in the 500-meter dash earned her second place in Yale’s all-time ranking and a fourth-place finish at the meet. Her time of 1:15.25 was enough to qualify her for the ECAC Championships next month. Olakitan Awolesi ’08 also garnered a strong finish at the meet, placing second in the long jump.

Captain Elizabeth Calle ’08 said this weekend’s performances and the ECAC qualifying times will help the team gain momentum for the upcoming Ivy League competitions, particularly the Heptagonal Championship on March 1.

The Eli men also had several solid performances.

“This meet was absolutely huge,” head coach David Shoehalter said. “In light of the size of the meet, I felt like our guys dealt with the distractions of being at such a big invitational well. At big meets, it is easy to get lost because you don’t necessarily know who you are competing against.”

Shoehalter attributed the larger-than-normal meet attendance to the additional weekend in February this calendar year — a result of leap year — which has created time for an extra meet prior to Ivy League competition.

“We didn’t want to have an off week,” Shoehalter added. “So we had to find a meet to attend, and we weren’t the only school that had that idea. The pole-vault competition took over six hours to run.”

In the pole vault, Eric DePalo ’10 took home third place with 4.90 meters.

The Bulldogs had several other top finishes in the day’s field events. Samuel Fox ’09 earned the Elis’ sole first-place finish of the day with his high jump of 1.98 meters, and Jeffrey Lachman ’09 earned a position in Yale’s all-time indoor rankings at No. 11 with his seventh-place finish in the weight throw.

Another notable performance came in a field of 66 sprinters, where Remi Ray ’10 garnered a third-place finish in the 500-meter dash with his time of 1:03.83, also earning him a No. 2 Ivy League ranking for the season.

Although longer distance runners Jake Gallagher ’09 and Jared Bell ’09 did not compete this weekend in order to allow time for training for upcoming meets, the middle- and shorter-distance runners made up for the loss.

Murat Kuyali ’09 ran the mile in 4:10.72 to qualify for the IC4A Championships and earn an eighth-place finish, and captain Dan O’Brien ’08 finished fifth in the 55-meter hurdles.

Both Bulldog teams will host the Princeton Tigers and Harvard Crimson in an Ivy League brawl at Coxe Cage next weekend. The meet will take on a different tone than those of the past three weeks of invitationals, O’Brien said.

“This past weekend was the last chance we had to focus on our individual performances,” he said. “Now it is really all about competing hard and not giving up anything.”

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