This was more than a win. This was redemption.
After falling to Princeton in each of the last three seasons, the women’s track team squeaked out a one-point victory over the Tigers, 61-60, en route to victory at the H-Y-P meet in Cambridge, Mass., this weekend. The Cantabs lagged well behind with 21 points.
The Bulldogs won seven events to the Tigers’ five, a ten-point advantage that helped make the difference. Margo Angelopoulos ’06 led the way, winning the shot put (12.68 meters) and the weight throw (15.37 meters). Her effort in the weight throw was a personal best by well over a foot.
Angelopoulos was joined by a contingent of seniors that made up for missed opportunities from years past and accounted for five individual wins. Joslyn Woodard ’06, competing despite a groin injury, won the long jump with a 5.63-meter leap, then placed third in the 200. Captain Molly Lederman ’06 won the pole vault with a 3.70-meter performance. And Dionna Thomas ’06 secured five points in the triple jump (11.96 meters).
Woodard said the team’s seniors tried to convey their past experiences to the younger athletes. While the last three seasons’ losses were defined by missed opportunities and inattention to detail, Saturday’s win helped erase those memories.
“Having competed for so long, there’s definitely a veteran status among the seniors,” Woodard said. “We know what it is like to compete and what feels right and what feels wrong. Weve felt all the emotions before and we don’t want to feel the bad ones again.”
Two underclassman victories completed the major scoring for the Elis. Katrina Castille ’07 won the 60-meter dash in a photo finish. Her time of 7.70 seconds barely edged out Harvard’s Stevie DeGroff, who finished one hundredth of a second behind. Finally, Lindsay Donaldson ’08 took the 800-meter dash in 2:14.46. Just hours earlier, she placed second in the mile with a time of 4:44.98, behind Princeton’s Cack Ferrell (4:44.57).
Remarkably, Donaldson had never run the 800 in college before Saturday. Katie McKinstry ’07, who placed third in the 3K, said that the coaches saw a chance to secure points and took it.
“[Yale head] coach [Mark Young] knew that the 800 was something she could win,” McKinstry said. She added that because the field is set just hours before the races begin, “the coaches have a lot more leeway in strategy during the meet compared to Heps.”
Donaldson’s absence in the 3K left the door wide open for the Crimson’s Lindsey Scherf, who has dominated the first half of the indoor season. In December, Scherf recorded the second-fastest 5K time by an American woman in 2005. On Saturday she ran the 3K, cruising across the finish line in 9:18.89, nearly 20 seconds ahead of the next competitor.
But Harvard was no more than a fly on the wall.
The Crimson watched as the Tigers and Bulldogs traded blows and first-place aspirations all afternoon. The one-point triumph was all the sweeter given the Elis’ history of near misses: Last year, Princeton won by 10 points, and Tigers victories in 2003 and 2004 were each decided by a single point.
Sharifa Love ’09, who finished fifth in the 400, said the nail-biting win gave a sense of long-overdue good karma to the seniors.
“The upperclassmen were all really happy,” she said. “There were some tears of joy. It was a really good way for them to go out, especially with so many injuries this season. It was really gratifying for the seniors.”
Woodard said Saturday’s win helped the seniors overcome any ghosts from years past. Losing to Princeton the last three years had raised some doubts, especially given the Elis’ ability to beat the Tigers each time come Heps.
“To be completely honest, in the past we haven’t stepped up to our game like we should have,” Woodard said. “But this weekend … was more of a realization that this is a team thing.”
The Harvard-Yale-Princeton rivalry marks the commencement of palpable late-season intensity. Gone are the weekends of invitationals and individual concerns. Instead, H-Y-P and the Heptagonal Championships emphasize team over athlete and tradition over all else.
Friday before the meet, the team gathered to calm any jitters and to emphasize the importance of Saturday’s contest. Young addressed the Elis, followed by Lederman, who urged everyone to concentrate on individual events and not to be overwhelmed by what she described as “the H-Y-P-ness” that defines the rivalry. But Love said it was hard to avoid the pressure.
“There was definitely higher pressure to perform well,” she said. “Our attitude was, ‘Okay, this is just a meet. Be relaxed, go out, have fun. But we need points to do well.'”
The Bulldogs did just that, securing enough points to reverse the heartbreak that had defined the recent past. While McKinstry said Saturday’s redemption was fulfilling, she does not expect a letdown at Heps, where Cornell is the hands-down favorite.
“This was a great indication that we’re having a strong season, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” McKinstry said. “We know everyone else is gunning for Heps in two weeks, but we’re confident that if we give our best shot, we have a chance.”
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