With team effort, Princeton earns another men’s track triple crown

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Adam Bragg ’15, left, placed second in the pole vault, while Eddie Owens ’15 was third in the steeplechase, leading a list of strong performances by Princeton’s supporting cast at the Ivy Heptagonals. (Photos: Courtesy Athletic Communications)
The 2011-12 season was a charmed one for the men’s track and field team. Princeton shattered numerous program and Ivy League records and cracked the national top 10 in cross country en route to Heptagonal championships in the fall and winter seasons. In the context of this success, as well as Princeton’s No. 24 national ranking in the outdoor season (the next Ivy League team, Cornell, was ranked 59th), one could have thought that the final leg of an Ivy League triple crown was just a formality.
 
But records and rankings are determined by a handful of top runners. Heptagonals is a two-day, team-wide marathon with 22 different events. Having star athletes capable of winning events is certainly a boost, but Ivy League track championships are often determined by which team has more finishers in second, third, and fourth place. Heading into this weekend’s championships, HepsTrack.com actually projected Cornell to win a close competition.
 
Instead, Princeton secured its second straight triple crown with plenty of room to spare, collecting 193 points to Cornell’s 161.75. After winning the last six Ivy League championships, the men’s track and cross country teams are at their highest point since the turn of the century, when they won three straight triple crowns from 1998-2000.
 
Certainly, many of Princeton’s top athletes performed to their billing at Penn’s Franklin Field this weekend. Donn Cabral ’12 won the 10,000-meter race and hammered the field in the steeplechase, while Conor McCullough ’15 outdistanced his competition by 40 feet in the hammer throw, joining three other Tigers as individual champions.
 

But those six victories did not give Princeton an edge on Cornell, which won eight of the 22 events. While many of the Big Red’s other competitors disappointed – Cornell fell 30 points below HepsTrack’s projections – several Tigers stepped up to add key points to the team’s total. In Saturday’s pole vault competition, Adam Bragg ’15 (second place) and Derek Hynes ’12 (tied for fourth) beat expectations to join Dave Slovenski ’12 (third) on the scoreboard for Princeton. The following day, four Tigers placed in the top six of the steeplechase, as Eddie Owens ’15 and Tyler King ’12 put up impressive times to combine with Cabral and Connor Martin ’15 for 21 points, the meet’s highest team total in any event.
 
Princeton’s stars will have other chances to shine, starting at the NCAA East Regional later this month and eventually at NCAA Championships June 6-9. Its third Ivy League title, however, was a true team effort.
 
Quick takes
 
After a tough year by the program’s lofty standards, WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD had one of its strongest meets in Philadelphia this weekend. Princeton did not seriously threaten Cornell, which rolled to its ninth outdoor title in 11 years, but the Tigers took second place comfortably with 134 points. Many of those came from Eileen Moran ’12, who took individual titles in the 100 and 200 meters and placed first and second in two relays.
 
With seemingly all momentum on its side, MEN’S LACROSSE fell horribly flat in the Ivy League Tournament final. Princeton, which had not allowed more than 10 goals in a game before Sunday, took the wrong end of a 15-7 rout against Yale. For seven hours, the Tigers thought their season might have ended on the worst possible note, but they got a reprieve when they received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, even when most projections had them on the wrong side of the bubble. Princeton will face No. 5-seed Virginia on Sunday. Despite this weekend’s loss, the Tigers still could be a dangerous tournament team.
 
This weekend, WOMEN’S WATER POLO head coach Luis Nicolao will face USC in the first round of the NCAA Championships. Sound familiar? Six months ago, Nicolao led the men’s team to NCAAs and faced the Trojans, although in a slightly different format (the women’s championship includes eight teams; the men’s, only four). These Tigers might have a better chance than their predecessors, who lost 17-4 to the eventual national champions, but they are still major underdogs. Even if they lose in the first round, the consolation bracket should provide some interesting competition.
 

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Kevin Whitaker ’13 is an economics major and Daily Princetonian sports editor.