Spectacular individual Eli performances made this weekend’s second-place finish to Cornell at the Heptagonal Games Indoor Championships palatable for the women’s track and field team.
“There were some individuals who had a truly superlative weekend, but by and large, it was a tremendous team effort,” head coach Mark Young said. “This is sort of the mid-year exam, and I think we scored a B-plus/A-minus.”
The two-day meet, in which the Ancient Eight schools and Navy participate, serves as the Ivy League indoor track and field championship.
Of Yale’s 99 points, Performer of the Meet Joslyn Woodard ’06 and twins Kate and Laura O’Neill ’03 accounted for 68 — which alone would have given Yale fourth place. The Cornell women tallied 114 points to win for the second year in the row.
“[Cornell] covers more areas with a little bit more depth than we do,” Young said. “We knew going into the meet that Cornell would be our biggest competition. I’m very happy, but I could be happier, of course.”
On Sunday at Dartmouth’s Leverone Field House, Woodard, who won three events, was named Performer of the Meet. With her victories in the 60- and 200-meter dashes, Woodard knocked off Cornell’s Katy Jay, last year’s star and the defending champion in both events.
“Everybody knew that my main competition was Katy Jay,” Woodard said. “I beat her in the dual meet earlier this year, but people were wondering if she was just having a bad day, so I knew that I had to prove myself again. She was in tears at the end of the 60, which made me feel bad, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to give up the win.”
With a 7.59 time in the 60, Woodard set a Heps record, besting the old mark of 7.62 set last year by Jay. Woodard also notched a victory in the long jump to complete her trifecta.
“Joslyn [Woodard] exceeded our expectations,” Young said. “And the O’Neills performed up to the level we are accostumed to.”
The famous O’Neill sisters closed the last indoor Heps meet of their collegiate careers with a bang. With a time of 16:20.52, Laura O’Neill posted the best 5,000-meter performance in 20 years at Heps, while Kate O’Neill set a meet record in the mile run with a time of 4:45.28.
“We don’t run the mile in outdoor track, so it was probably the last time that I will run the mile in college,” Kate O’Neill said. “It was nice to go out on a good note with the event.”
Kate O’Neill also just squeaked by her sister in the 3,000-meter run to win the event.
“The 3,000 was less stressful than the mile because Laura [O’Neill] and I decided to trade off laps [which] makes setting a pace easier,” Kate O’Neill said. “You can really work with each other to aim for a good time.”
Though the Bulldogs had arguably the best trio of athletes at the meet, Young emphasized that Yale’s finish was the result of an outstanding team endeavor.
“You always have your individual incentives for doing well, but you have to know that other people are counting on you,” Young said. “The girls all drove each other on, and without performances of people — like Molly Lederman ’06, Anika Kreider ’04, Katrina Svoboda ’05 and Dionna Thomas ’06 — we would not have finished as well.”
Lederman would have clinched the pole vault if Princeton’s Chelo Canino failed to make it over on the third of three attempts, but Canino managed to edge out Lederman’s 3.82 meters and set the new Heps record with a 3.92.
“I competed for myself all through high school, and now there were others counting on me, so there was more at stake,” Lederman said. “Although I did not go as high as I would have liked, my performance gave me confidence that certain elements of my vault are in place.”
Yale’s second-place standing was an extraordinary improvement over last year’s sixth-place finish, but rookie Woodard was not content with the outcome.
“It’s very disappointing to know that we were that close to the title, but things just fell apart in the end; it was like the Doppler effect,” Woodard said. “We knew that we were better than Cornell going into the meet, and we still know it.”
Kate O’Neill had a different perspective, hoping to channel the energy into the upcoming spring season.
“Right now, we feel frustrated, but I think we can use that frustration for the future,” she said. “We’ve all been dedicated all throughout the year and we want it to pay off with a league title. We didn’t get one this weekend, but we have another chance in outdoor, so we will all just focus on that.”