NEW YORK — The Columbia track & field teams will fight for conference supremacy this weekend, when the Lions head to Yale for the 2017 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships this Saturday and Sunday.
Field events get under way at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, with a 1 p.m. start for the running events. Saturday's portion of the meet features one track final, with the 10,000m run taking the stage. On Sunday, field events also get under way at 11:00 a.m., with the track finals beginning 15 minutes later.
The Heps meet returns to New Haven for the first time since 2014, when Columbia combined for four outright championships.
Robert Napolitano is the lone returning champion from that meet, having posted the first of his six Ivy League titles with a 4x800m relay victory. The senior will look to add on this weekend in that relay, as well as the 1,500m run, where he picked up All-Ivy accolades with a second place finish a season ago.
Last year at Outdoor Heps, Rustami broke out with a second place finish in the 5,000m run to earn All-Ivy honors for the first time in her career. In her senior season, the Syosset, New York, native has impressed, qualifying for the NCAA Cross Country meet in the fall, winning a pair of titles at Indoor Heps during the winter, and being a part of the school record distance medley relay team this spring. Rustami and Natalie Tanner, who is entered in Saturday's 10,000m run, have the conference's top two times in the 5,000m this spring.
Wade also hopes to continue her success this season in the 800m run, having already broken her own school record at that distance. At the Virginia Challenge on April 21, the Bethesda, Maryland, native clocked a 2:05.30, which is the top time in the Ivy League this year. The second fastest time belongs to Sarah Hardie at 2:06.68, as both women plan on competing in the 800m run and the 4x800m relay.
Williams is entered in the long jump and 4x100m relay, and will look for a repeat performance from her triple jump titles at both Outdoor Heps a season ago and Indoor Heps this year. The senior's career best of 12.99m led to the gold at Indoor Heps, while her 12.71m outdoor best this season ranks second in the Ivy League.
The women also feature the conferences best 400m runner in Akua Obeng-Akrofi, who clocked a 52.93 to finish first among college entries at the Virginia Challenge.
Aside from the aforementioned Napolitano, the men will look to load up on points in the middle distance and distance races.
A bevy of talented underclassmen are entered in the 800m, with Alek Sauer (1:48.95) holding the third fastest time in the conference, Josiah Langstaff (1:49.85) with the sixth best, and Willie Hall (1:50.17) with the seventh best. No matter who is entered on the 4x800m relay team, Columbia will have high hopes, as the Lions have won five of the past seven outdoor titles in the event.
The men also have a chance for multiple scorers in the 5,000m run. Ryan Thomas clocked a conference best 14:00.56 during the Stanford Invitational, while Brian Zabilski ran to a second place finish at Outdoor Heps last year, while Kenny Vasbinder was a NCAA Cross Country Championships qualifier in his first fall as a Lion.