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This past weekend, the Harvard track and field team competed at the Raleigh Relays, Hurricane Invite, and UMass Lowell Riverhawk Invite. The track team saw great success in the second week of its outdoor season, earning nine first-place finishes and setting two new school records.
“The plan was just to go to Raleigh this weekend and get a time qualifier for the regional championships, which is the race you need to go to qualify for nationals,” said sophomore Graham Blanks about his coach’s advice going into his race. “ I knew I needed to run 29 minutes or faster to get that qualifier. So basically that was the plan — just to go in and get that time as painlessly as possible.”
Blanks did just that, representing the Crimson well in the men’s 10000 m. He placed second in his heat of 99 runners. His time of 28:24.79 seconds places him second in the nation and third in Harvard’s history.
“With the distance being so long, there’s more time to sort out when there’s a lot of runners,” Blanks said about his mentality approaching his race. “In the heat I was in, we even had two rabbits pacing at two different paces, so it was almost like two races within a race. It’s not really that pressing of an issue to get into a certain spot in the pack. With that in mind, I tried to get out a little hard but nothing crazy, and then after a lap or so worked my way up to the front and then settled in for the rest of the race.”
Along with Blanks, his teammates also had impressive races. A total of 196 runners competed in the 1500 m event in Raleigh, with sophomore Noah Ward and first-year Vivien Henz finishing in the top 100 runners. Ward took third place in his heat with a time of 3:47.11 seconds and Henz finished 12th in his heat with a time of 3:50.47 seconds. Senior Will Crisp finished second in his heat with a time of 4:01.81 seconds.
In the men’s 5000 m, junior Acer Iverson finished seventh overall with a time of 13:41.46 seconds. The time puts him just below his school record in the books and seventh in the NCAA. His teammates, sophomores Ben Rosa and Pierce Cousins, also finished in the top 100 out of 205 runners competing, taking 47th and 98th place overall, respectively.
“To list off a few names that raced well, Acer Iverson most likely got a 5K qualifier time [and] Noah Ward had a good race in his 1500 m — he closed really fast and almost won his heat,” Blanks commented. “Another really good race was from Pierce Cousins too — he went out and did his first 5K ever and also had a really fast last lap.
“It was good to see on one side, a lot of people developing and getting better, and on the other, we were able to get some qualifiers,” he continued.
Over at the Riverhawk Invitational, the Crimson continued to have success.
Representing Harvard in Lowell, Mass., sophomores Annelies Quinton and Cristina Demeo competed in the women’s 1500 m. Quinton ran a time of 4:48.05 seconds to place third out of 40 runners, while Demeo placed eighth with a time of 4:55.46 seconds. Their teammate, junior Noah Miles, won the men’s triple jump with a personal record of 13.58 m. Sophomore Allaura Osborne also had a personal best in the women’s hammer throw, throwing a mark of 38.75 m.
Over at Hurricane Invitational in Coral Gables, Fla., nine athletes won gold medals, and two set new Harvard records.
“Our coach said ‘Let’s have fun. We’ve done what we need to do, our training has prepared us for this, so let’s go out there and run and do our best because we love the sport,'” junior sprinter Lance Ward said. “ That’s what we did — and we had a lot of great performances come out of that.”
For the field athletes, it was sophomore Kenneth Ikeji who set the tone. In the men’s hammer throw, he threw a mark of 69.18 m on his fifth attempt to win the event, as well as set a new event record for the Crimson. Ikeji was the only contestant to successfully record a score on all six attempts. His teammate, senior Alexander Kolesnikoff, also won his event in the men’s shot put, throwing 19.02 m to put him in sixth place in the NCAA rankings. He also got on the podium for the men’s discus, getting second place in the event.
Senior Stephanie Ratcliffe also won the weight throw for the women at a mark of 65.45 m. Sophomore Cara Salsberry, alongside juniors Cammy Garabian and Estel Valeanu, received podium spots for the event, winning third, fifth, and sixth places respectively. Senior Sarah Omoregie took silver in the women’s shot put with a throw of 16.80 m, which placed her sixth in the national league. Valeanu added to the Crimson’s winning streak in the women’s discus, throwing 55.52 m to win gold for the event, putting her in eleventh place in the nation.
For the jumpers, sophomore Anastasia Retsa, the school record holder for the women’s pole vault, won the event with a mark of 4.15 m. She cleared the mark on her first attempt, jumping just 0.1m away from her personal record. Sophomore Izzy Goudros, the school record holder for the women’s long jump, earned second place in the event with a jump of 5.96 m.
On the track, the Harvard runners continued their winning streak.
The sprinters started off with some strong races. Sophomore Jaeschel Acheampong ran a personal best of 10.50 seconds in the men’s 100 m dash to win the event, a time that puts him fifth in Harvard history. In the same event, Ward and first-year Jonas Clarke took second and fourth places in their heat to finish fourth and seventh overall, respectively.
Ward, the school record holder for the men’s 200 m dash, also won the event with a time of 20.86 seconds. Junior Gregory Lapit finished behind him in second place with a time of 21.04 seconds.
Senior Aaron Shirley added to his accolades with his race in the 400 m hurdles. His school record time of 50.29 seconds was two seconds faster than the other competitors in the race, earning him first place. In the same race, first-year Ondrej Vesely and sophomore Peter Fischer finished fifth and seventh place, respectively.
“It’s just the second meet of the outdoor season and we’re already breaking these records,” Ward commented. “Our team is the best it’s ever been, and that’s kind of proof of that. That’s just going to continue to happen. All these records are temporary —I think that’s what we’re all thinking.”
Sophomore Victoria Bossong won the women’s 800 m run with a time of 2:07.43, placing her 12th in the national league.
At the beginning of this week, it was announced that the Harvard men’s team and women’s team were both ranked in the top 25 in the nation, with the men’s team sitting in an impressive fourth place, and the women’s team at 23rd.
“It was just an amazing feeling,” said Ward about the team’s ranking. “It feels like it’s been a long time coming and kind of a product of all of the effort and sacrifice and dedication that’s been put into the sport this year by everybody in all the event groups, and also across both genders.
“That’s just really been bringing us together as a big family of around 120 people and I’m really glad to be a part of it,” Ward added.
Blanks added, “It’s definitely a consequence of all of us competing last weekend, but it is hard to do. It just happens that, right now, early in the season, we have a few guys that are maybe in the top ten and top 20, but I think it’s telling of where we are right now.”
“As the bigger programs come out of hibernation after indoor season and start competing, that ranking will drop, but I think it is something to be proud of. It’s indicative of how our team’s progressed,” he continued.
Next up, Harvard track and field will compete at the Florida Relays taking place from today through April 1st, as well as taking on the UMass Dartmouth Corsair Classic on Saturday.
— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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