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Even as a freshman, Iris Chijioke looks like a veteran in the hurdles and her two other events.

In the second weekend of outdoor competition, the men's and women's track and field teams are slated to race in the 13th annual Sam Howell Invitational, hosted by Princeton. More than 50 collegiate teams and 25 track and field clubs, including the entirety of the Ancient Eight, are scheduled to compete in the meet. With the absence of nationally ranked squads at the invitational, the Lions will have the opportunity to see how they measure up against the Ivy competition they will face at the Heptagonal Indoor Track and Field Championships later in the season.

The team representing the Light Blue at the meet includes long-distance, mid-distance, sprint, and field event athletes. For several Lions, the Invitational will be their first meet of the season, while others already have one under their belts. Either way, the field that Columbia faces promises a fair amount of competition.

The long-distance runs, including the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the 5,000-meter run, the 10,000-meter run, and the 1,500-meter elite run, will take place on Friday, the first day of the meet. The most notable of the Light Blue athletes racing Friday is sophomore Waverly Neer, who will be running in her first meet since cross country season in September. Neer, who was a force for the women's team her freshman season, has been sidelined by injuries since then. This weekend's meet could be the first of many for Neer as she approaches the latter half of her collegiate career.

Head coach Willy Wood echoed the importance of avoiding injury and prioritizing health for the entire team this season.

"We need to stay healthy. If so, we'll be very good," Wood said.

The second day of competition at the invitational will feature the short- and mid-distance events, along with several field events. Sophomores Connor Claflin and Brendon Fish and junior Harrison McFann are all racing in the 400-meter dash, one week after taking first through third places in the 1,500-meter run at the Monmouth Opener. Sophomores Kevin Boyd and Brendan Donley, freshman Yelnats Calvin, and junior Denzel Woode will also race Saturday after contributing to the 4x400 meter relay victories last weekend. (Donley is a Spectator arts and entertainment staff writer.)

The Sam Howell Invitational is set to begin at 4 p.m. Friday with the men's hammer throw.

sports@columbiaspectator.com @CUspecsports

Track and Field Sam Howell Invitational Princeton Waverly Neer
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