In their meet at Cornell University this Saturday, the Yale men’s and women’s indoor track squads flashed on and off like a brilliant neon sign. Both teams have run their hearts out this winter, but with a few notable exceptions, no one is throwing and jumping Yale to winning scores.

The women lost their face-off by a whopping 52 points, toward a final score of 87-35 in favor of Cornell. Paradoxically, the points Yale’s women did amass in the lanes included only two third-place finishes; the rest were all valuable seconds and firsts.

Kate O’Neill ’03 stole the women’s mile from her Big Red chasers in just 4:54.17. Teammate Rebecca Hunter ’04 extended the effort with her third place finish in 5:01.91.

Although Madeleine Meek ’04 ran an exemplary 5:09.72 mile for fifth place, Yale did not earn any points for her run. In the tight rules of indoor track, only first, second and third place finishes add up; every millisecond matters.

Other standout performances by Yale’s women runners that day were less ambiguously regarded.

Sikira Backus ’02 won her heat in the 60-meter dash in 7.85 seconds, then bettered her time down to 7.73 seconds in the final. There she grabbed three points for Yale in her second place finish behind Katy Jay, Cornell’s top sprinter.

Backus also placed second to Jay in the 200-meter dash, clocking in at 25.36.

Anika Kreider ’03 won the 400-meter dash in 56.68 seconds, and soon after Laura O’Neill ’03 and Amanda Brewster ’03 placed first and second, respectively, in the 3,000-meter run with times of 9:58.47 and 10:10.15.

Unfortunately for Yale, this rush of points and the thrill of Laura O’Neill’s stellar time would not follow them into the field events.

Yale earned no points in any throwing events, or in the pole vault.

Behind the zeroes lies a reason that is troubling but true: Yale has no throwers or vaulters to compete.

“It would be better if that weren’t the case, but I know that’s the case so I tell the team that you have to focus on your individual performances and not worry so much about the team score,” head coach Mark Young said with reference to the team’s automatic losses in most field events.

“However, we’ve addressed several of our voids in the early-decision process this year,” Young added. “Except for two seniors, all of our runners will be back next year.”

The same story played out for the men’s team. They too lost, 95-50, with some virtuosic performances along the way.

Christopher Andrew ’04 placed second in the 5,000-meter run, a full seven seconds ahead of his closest pursuer. Michael Gray ’05 and Anthony Thomas ’03 battled each other to the finish line for 7.17 and 7.18 seconds, respectively, in the 60-meter dash. The Yale teammates captured second and third places.

Second and third were seized again in the 500-meter dash by Thomas Stout ’02 and Jeff Hobbs ’02. Their times were, respectively, 1:05.80 and 1:06.25.

And the men’s big three — Donald Carson ’02, Robert Dwyer ’04, and Robert Lobue ’04 — continued to deliver. Carson won the 400-meter dash in 49.63 seconds, Lobue took the 800-meter run in 1:55.04, and Dwyer ran away with the 3,000-meter run in 8:37.73. Yale also won both team relays for 10 valuable points.

But only nine points were gained in all the field events, where Cornell rounded up 45 points.

Young says he is not worried. Yale has a fighting chance this weekend against Harvard and Princeton in Cambridge, and the more individual performance oriented big meets are just around the corner.

“Cornell is clearly the best team in the league. At Harvard, the other teams will divide the field points and we should be better in the sprints than both of them,” he said.

Backus added that when the Ivies converge at the Heptagonals Feb. 23-24, where individual performances are more heavily weighted with high point rewards, the Bulldogs will have everything they need to be number one.

The numbers say that she is right, and her statement applies equally to the men and women of the Yale track and field team this winter.