NEW YORK – The Columbia track & field team will travel to New Haven, Conn., this weekend, to take part in the biggest meet of the year, as the Lions will take part in the 2011 Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. Columbia will take on the Ancient Eight, in a battle to see who owns the oval at Yale, Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8. 

The Lions are poised to do well, as eight out of the 10 athletes who earned All-Ivy League honors in 2010 will return to the track this weekend. 

Sprints & Hurdles
This is one area where the women’s team has dominated in recent years, and 2011 has been no exception. Ivy League record holders and defending champions Kyra Caldwell and Sharay Hale will lead the way for this group, joined by first-year protégés Tayler Johnson in hurdles and Marvellous Iheukwumere in the short sprints. Caldwell was the Most Outstanding Performer of the Meet in 2010, as she won the 100 and 400 hurdles, and helped the women’s 4x400m relay to a championship as well. And Hale won the title at both the 2010 and 2011 Indoor Championships. Hale is defending her title in the 400m, and will be looking to claim an outdoor title in the 200m. 

On the men’s side, first-years Cody Love and Harry Danilevics will look to make waves in the league, as both will be competing in their first outdoor championships. 

Field Events
Junior Jason Marks has steadily been getting better in the pole vault this year, and could score some points for the men’s team in that event. 

On the women’s side, it’s another strong area for the Lions. Junior Monique Roberts is defending her title in the high jump, with her main competition coming from first-year standout Tara Richmond. Meanwhile, sophomores Uju Ofoche and QueenDenise Okeke will be aiming for outdoor titles in the long jump and triple jump, respectively, both titles they claimed indoor, but have yet to win outside. Sophomore Nnenna Okwara will anchor Columbia’s throwing squad, and could continue to score more points, as she improves her personal bests nearly every time she competes. And in the pole vault, junior Sarah Engle could be a threat in 2011, as she’s been clearing some of her best heights ever early in the year. 

Middle Distance & Distance 
Columbia’s men will have a strong group in middle distance and distance events, making the Lions one of the top teams to beat here. Senior Jeff Moriarty leads the pack, and will be defending his title in the 800m, and potentially compete in the 1500m, which he holds the second fastest time in the league this year. Also competing for titles in middle distance events will be seniors Matthew Stewart and Dylan Isaacson, and a younger contingent, including first-years Samuel Miner and William Kovalczyk, both strong performers early on. Men’s distance could also fare well, led by senior Brendan Martin, junior Adam Behnke and sophomores Mark Feigen and Paul Snyder.

On the women’s side, senior and recent Maniatty Award winner Jacqueline Drouin will lead the charge for the ladies. Drouin was an Ivy League champion in the 1500m in 2010, and will look to take the crown in the 3000m, which she finished second in last year. Senior Laura Vogel will be the top Lion in the middle distance events, while sophomore Emily Lanois could be a key contributor in the longer distances. 

Relays
Columbia will be defending two titles in the relay events, and could be looking for those and more this weekend. On the women’s side, the 4x400m relay will be aiming to continue their recent dominance, and defend the 2010 outdoor and 2011 indoor titles in the event, with an eye on breaking their own Ivy League records. The women’s 4x800m and Distance Medley Relay could also be in contention, and score major points for Columbia. 

For the men, the 4x800m relay is Columbia’s to lose. The Lions had the fastest time in the league at last week’s Penn Relays, and 2010 marked the first-ever outdoor championship in the event. Columbia won, and will be defending it’s title in that event Sunday. 

Live results from the weekend will be available here. The official Ivy League championship website is located here