Levine, Lindberg and Shirvell Bound for North Carolina for Division I Championship Prelims
NEW HAVEN, Conn.—As the Yale men's track and field team's season begins to wind down, the intensity of competition is only heating up. Three of the Bulldogs' star athletes—senior Mike Levine, junior Dana Lindberg and junior James Shirvell—are preparing to trek to Greensboro, N.C., after qualifying for the NCAA Division I East Regionals, hosted by North Carolina A&T on May 23 and 25. The competition serves as the preliminary round for the NCAA Championships, and those who perform well at Regionals will have the chance to continue their season. The three eligible Elis will be seeking to make their presence felt amidst the most talented track and field athletes the Eastern portion of the U.S. has to offer.
Levine—who has now qualified for outdoor Regionals in all four years of his collegiate career—will be competing in the discus throw, an event which he has dominated throughout his career. In addition to being a two-time Ivy League discus champion and All-Ivy honoree, Levine went all the way to the NCAA Championships last year, placing 22nd in a field that included the best discus throwers in the country. Still, Levine has continued to improve this season, even setting a personal record (182'5"—55.61m) in his second-place finish at Heps. That throw qualified Levine for Regionals as the 22nd seed. He will need to crack the top 12 to move on to the final championship round.
Given Levine's history of success in the discus—and the fact that this is his senior year—he is entering the meet with high expectations.
"After qualifying for this meet my freshman through junior years, qualifying this year was definitely an expectation going into the season," Levine said. "The goal here is to finish in the top 12 and move onto the final round. It's definitely in the back of my mind that this could be my last collegiate meet ever, so I don't plan on leaving anything in the circle."
In contrast to Levine, both Lindberg and Shirvell will be competing at Regionals for the first times in their careers. Lindberg enters as the 36th seed in the long jump, thanks to his personal record leap of 24'3.5" (7.40m) against Harvard earlier this season. He is coming off strong long jump performances at both Heps and the IC4As, where he placed 11th and 14th, respectively.
From Lindberg's perspective, qualifying for Regionals was a bit of a pleasant surprise.
"I would not say I started out this season with the intention of making it this far," he said. "This is the first time in college I can really say I have been healthy for the most part all year, and I just wanted to improve on all my marks. At the Harvard-Yale dual meet, when I jumped 7.40 [meters], I was not even thinking about what it meant for qualifying or even IC4As. I just knew that would probably win the event on that day, which I was really excited about."
Lindberg is also trying to not put too much pressure on himself going into the meet.
"The obvious answer for my expectations at Regionals is to [set a] PR again and go even longer than 7.40. But I have no idea what to expect from the meet itself and the atmosphere, so I'm mainly excited to experience it and watch some of the country's best athletes compete. I think that will be a lot of fun."
Shirvell, slated to run the 1,500-meters, is the lone Eli qualified in the track category. Shirvell had a strong outdoor season, placing first in the 1,500-meter run on two separate occasions and placing second in prelims (and sixth overall) in the event at Heps. The weekend following Heps, however, Shirvell chose not to compete at the IC4As, for which he had qualified; instead, he traveled to Charlottesville to run in the Virginia Challenge—a decision that turned out to be a wise one. It was at the Virginia Challenge that Shirvell ran what is possibly the best race of his career: a 3:44.84 1,500-meters that not only broke his previous personal record (set earlier in the season) by nearly three seconds, but also gave him the fourth-fastest personal record in the event in Yale history. Because of that dominating performance, Shirvell—who, going into the Virginia Challenge, did not have quite a fast enough time to qualify for Regionals—is entering Regionals as the 20th overall seed.
"Prior to the season, making Regionals was definitely a goal," Shirvell said. "So during the season, going into each meet, the idea was in the back of my mind. But I tried to just ignore that and just focus on running fast and competing my best each race, and hopefully the time to qualify would come. When I ran 3:44 at Virginia, I was almost 100% certain that I would get in with that. I was pretty pumped when I ran that, besides the fact that it was a huge PR."
While many of his friends are home on summer vacation, Shirvell is soaking in every moment of his memorable season.
"At Regionals, I just want to put myself in a good spot on Thursday to qualify for the second round on Saturday," he said. "And hopefully on Saturday, do the same to qualify for the Championships at Eugene [in Oregon] two weeks later. I'm just trying to stay in New Haven for as long as I can, because that will mean my season is being extended."
Interestingly, the three Elis to qualify for Regionals are the same three Elis who received honors at the team's annual banquet on May 9. Levine was given the James Stack '61 Award, which is bestowed annually upon an athlete who best personifies Jim Stack, the captain of the 1961 Yale squad that won the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet, the Ivy League Championships and the IC4As all in the same season. Lindberg, a strong sprinter, received the Lee Calhoun Award, presented annually to an "outstanding member of the Men's and Women's Track and Field Team who excels in Sprinting and/or Hurdling." And Shirvell received the Gardner Millet Memorial Trophy—a distinction celebrating an "outstanding member of the Men's Track and Field Team who excels in Sportsmanship, Courage, and Inspiration." Shirvell's teammates also elected him next season's team captain at the banquet.
Levine, Lindberg and Shirvell qualified for the NCAA Championship prelims by securing results in their respective events that ranked in the top 48 overall among those eligible in the Eastern region. Twelve competitors from each individual event advance from each preliminary championships competition site to the final championships competition in Eugene, Ore. on June 6-8.
Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity