For the first time since spring of 2010, a Columbia team has won an Ivy League championship. The Columbia women’s track and field team won the first title in program history at the Ivy League Heptagonal Indoor Track & Field Championships in Ithaca, N.Y., this past weekend.
“It’s so special. We’ve won in cross country before, but never in track and field, and it was just amazing,” head coach Willy Wood said, “It was a great day for us.”
The Light Blue scored 124 team points, dominating the field with many outstanding performances in both short- and long-distance running events, as well as in the jumps. Cornell finished second with 103 points.
After a number of strong performances throughout the season, the stars aligned for the Lions this weekend.
Freshman Nadia Eke won the triple jump, while sophomore Marvellous Iheukwumere advanced to the finals in both the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, winning the latter in the second day of competition.
“Everyone wants to do well individually, and across the board we’re a very talented team,” freshman Waverly Neer said.
Neer also entered Heps with high expectations after earning United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Cross Country All-American honors in the fall and recording an NCAA Division I auto-qualifying time in the 3,000 at the Boston University Valentine Invitational. At Heps on Sunday, she took first place in the 3,000.
“It was great to see my training pay off, and it was humbling to be a part of this team as a freshman,” Neer said.
The team found success in both track and field events.
The Lions took first and fifth places in the long jump; third in the weight throw; second in the pole vault; third and fifth places in the 5,000; and first in the high jump.
“It was an overall team effort, and everyone contributed in some way or another,” Wood said. “We had every event covered.”
The team’s strong team performance provided a motivational boost for the men, who placed third at Heps with 70 points, despite primarily competing in distance events.
Senior Kyle Merber played a major role in the men’s two first-place finishes. Merber won the one-mile race, and was also the anchor leg of the champion distance medley squad which consisted of Merber, senior Adam Behnke, sophomore Byron Jones, and freshman Daniel Everett.
“What the men accomplished in the events was absolutely incredible,” Wood said.
Proud of their accomplishment, the Lions will continue to work hard, hoping their success will carry over into the upcoming outdoor season.
“For the outdoor season, there will be a lot of excitement going into it. The momentum is going to be huge,” Neer said.
Cornell and Princeton had won every women’s indoor title since 2001, when Brown took home the championship. The Lions fell just short last year, when they lost to the Big Red.
“We’ve been so close so many times, but now everyone sees that it can be done,” Wood said. “It’s going to propel us in the years to come.”
Neer also underlined the importance of the win. “We’ve set a standard, and I hope years from now people will look back at the 2012 team and say that we set the foundation.”