Monday, November 2, 2015

Two Days, Three Championships

There's something about the first day after turning the clocks back that's a bit depressing.

After all, not that long ago it was light out past 7. Now? Sunset at 4:55 yesterday. Pitch black by 5:15 or so.

It's a real punch in the face that winter is on the way, even if the extended forecast for Princeton for the next 10 days is actually pretty good and that this week should see four days in the 70s.

The end of Daylight Savings Time also coincides with the sprint that goes from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. In fact Thanksgiving is just three weeks from Thursday, and TigerBlog saw his first Christmas commercial earlier this week.

And then? Cold. Snow. Bleh.

So yeah, that's what turning the clocks back means. The depressing news that winter is knocking.

Ah, but TigerBlog can't be too depressed after this weekend. Not when Princeton won three Ivy League championships in a little over 24 hours.

TigerBlog was at the Ivy League Heptagonal championships Friday when they made their return to Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.

If you've never been to Heps, it's just a big cross country party. There are tents for each team that are loaded with food, and nobody really seems to care who eats what. TigerBlog, dressed head-to-toe in Princeton stuff, tested that theory at the Penn tent, where he snagged a bagel.

As for the races, there are two ways to watch them. The first is to see the start and then cut across the big field to see where the runners go into the woods. The other way is to do what TigerBlog did: stay by the tents and take a Quaker bagel when everyone else is in the woods.

The men ran first Friday, and the young Princeton team finished in the middle of the pack, as predicted. The winning team was Columbia.

Then it was time for the women's race. 

Princeton and Columbia, as TB understood it, were the favorites. As TB stood near the finish line, he didn't need a calculator to figure out that Princeton had won, and relatively easily at that.

The Tigers had five runners in the top 30, including three of the top six. At the top of the list as the individual winner, Lizzie Bird, who won by nearly eight seconds.

Usually at a Heps meet, there's a long wait while the officials total the scores and make it official. This time, it was obvious Princeton had won, and the team began to celebrate almost immediately.

TigerBlog did a short video interview with Bird, whom he'd never before, and his first thought was "she's not from around here, is she?" In fact, she's from St. Albans Herts. That's in England.

Before the race, TigerBlog saw Princeton coach Peter Farrell and asked him if he was nervous. Farrell's response was "you don't have to tell me it's race day." He was quoting someone. TigerBlog isn't sure if it was a real person or a fictional character. Either way, TB is also not sure if Farrell was nervous.

If he was, he had no reason to be. The win was his 27th Heps title as Princeton coach, with nine each in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.

So that was one title.

The field hockey team entered the weekend unbeaten in the league, and Cornell and Penn had one loss each. Princeton also had games at home against Cornell and at Penn remaining, so the league was pretty wide open.

It got less wide open after the Tigers topped Cornell 4-0. The best goal was the last one, when Maddie Copeland took a long pass and was one-on-one with the Big Red goalie. Instead of shooting immediately, she gathered herself, spun around once - and then knocked it in. TigerBlog describes the goal as "graceful."

The win eliminated Cornell and left Princeton and Penn, who defeated Brown 2-1, in a big one Saturday at Penn as the winner gets the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton, though, is assured of at least a share of the Ivy League title, which is a stunning 21st Ivy League title in 22 years in field hockey.

It's so stunning that TigerBlog wonders how many other teams on any level anywhere have won 21 titles in 22 years. He'll look that up later, if he can figure out how.

When the field hockey game ended, there wasn't much of a celebration by Princeton. Perhaps that's what happens when you get so used to winning. Or maybe it was an acknowledgement that there's more work to do.

About 100 yards away from the field hockey field, the women's soccer team was playing Cornell for its shot at the NCAA tournament. In fact, unlike field hockey, the women's soccer team had all kinds of margin of error, but the Tigers chose not to test any it.

Instead, Tyler Lussi did what she's done 40 other times in her career, which is to score a goal. This one came 15 minutes into the game and was a nice little chip over the goalkeeper, who had come off her line as a long ball was played down the field. Then, in the second half, Jesse McDonough headed in a cross from Lussi, and that was that for the game.

Princeton's 2-0 win meant that Princeton had clinched the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It also meant at least a share of the Ivy title. All that was left was to get an outright championship, and that came when Dartmouth and Harvard tied 1-1, making Princeton's game at Penn next week meaningless in the league race.

The surging Tigers, who have won 11 straight and now will head to the NCAA tournament for the 11th time. This time Princeton will have a different leader, as Sean Driscoll has his team headed to the postseason in his first year as head coach.

And that was the weekend.

Two days. Three championships.

And that ominous first day of darkness at 5:00.

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