Thursday, June 8, 2017

Hammer Time

There's a golf course near TigerBlog's house.

It looks nice. TigerBlog wouldn't know. He's never played it. The only time he's ever been there was for a banquet for Miss TigerBlog's high school field hockey team.

TB isn't a golfer. He's played before, though not in a long time.

He knows a lot of people who do play. He even knows some who play at that local course.

Like his friend Mark, for instance. Mark is a former Cornell hockey player who has three children, including one (Michael) who grew up playing lacrosse with TigerBlog Jr. and who now plays at St. Joe's and another (Maddie) who grew up playing lacrosse with MTB and will be playing this coming year at Lehigh.

Mark lives across the street and beyond the train tracks from where the golf course is. He's been known to chip balls from his front lawn, over his house and the railroad trestle and onto the green on the other side.

You'd think someone who could do that would have a better sense of where the golf course ended and the road next to it started. And yet there was Mark, standing in the middle of the road on the other side of the course from his house, holding what looked like an eight-iron and looking for his ball, which TigerBlog could see was nestled against the curb, as he happened to be driving by at that exact moment.

How did he get the ball to stop against the curb on the near side of the road, as opposed to the far side? TB drove away before Mark retrieved his ball and got back on the course, so he didn't see the next shot, but he did see the old ladies playing behind him who were pissed that he was making them wait.

Shortly after that, TigerBlog found himself on the towpath, a place he goes a lot to walk or ride his bike. Not the towpath in Princeton. The one in Bucks County, across the river in Pennsylvania. It's a very calming, scenic, in many ways beautiful place, with views of the Delaware River as you go further up and down and the colors of the canal and its surroundings on the path itself.

He's not the only one who goes there to exercise. There are bikers, runners, walkers, dog-walkers, people pushing strollers, teenagers, senior citizens, everybody and anybody. And geese.

The range of speed and athleticism varies widely among those you'll see coming and going, but the other day TigerBlog realized that the two guys who were running towards him were a little different than anyone he usually sees out there.

As they got closer, he figured out why. One of them was Robby Andrews, the volunteer assistant men's cross country coach at Princeton and a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. Robby ran the 1,500 in Rio.

Of course, TB didn't realize it was Andrews until he was passed him, and by then what was he supposed to do? Turn around and catch up to him? Yeah right.

Now that Reunions and Commencement have come and gone, it's easy to forget that the 2016-17 athletic year at Princeton isn't over. There are still the Princeton athletes who are competing in the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.

Princeton's participation began yesterday, when William Paulson ran his heat in the 1,500 and August Kiles competed in the pole vault.

It continues today with the two women who have qualified.

Allison Harris will also pole vault, in an event that begins at 8 Eastern. You can watch it HERE.

Harris, the Princeton and Ivy League record holder, finished ninth at the indoor NCAA championships to earn second-team All-America honors. She's also a three-time Heps champ, twice indoors and once outdoors.

Harris is the first Princeton women's pole vaulter to qualify for the outdoor championships in 13 years.

Today will also be the final day as a Princeton Tiger for the legendary Julia Ratcliffe. Barring something wildly unforeseen, Ratcliffe will finish her career having eclipsed the previous Ivy League women's hammer throw record on every single throw of her career. If she takes all her throws today, that would be 140 throws in her career.

The women's hammer starts at 5 Eastern. You can watch it HERE.

Ratcliffe is a four-time hammer throw NCAA qualifier. She won the championship as a sophomore in 2014, and she was the 2015 runner-up before taking last year off to train for the Olympics.

Ratcliffe has the second-best throw so far of the athletes in the field. The best belongs to Maggie Ewen, from Arizona State.

The path to qualifying for the NCAA championships goes through the two regionals. Ratcliffe won the East with a throw of 70.75; Ewen won the West at 70.81. That's not a huge gap. In fact, it's 0.05 meters, or just under two inches.

It would be a storybook ending for Ratcliffe to win again.

Regardless, her place in Princeton Athletic history is already secure.

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