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The Harvard track and field team hosted Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge at the 126th HYOC meet this Saturday, April 8th. The historic meet occurs every two years, alternating between the four universities. The win this weekend marks Harvard’s 14th consecutive win at HYOC, as it has won every matchup since 1993. The Crimson competed alongside Yale against the two UK schools, defeating Oxford and Cambridge 26-10.
“There was a lot of excitement. It’s a really cool meet, very historic. They say it’s the oldest international collegiate competition in the world — it’s really cool to take part in that,” said sophomore Graham Blanks about the team going into Saturday's meet. “It’s really cool to get to race against international competition not in the NCAA, which is something I don’t think many people really ever get to during their time in the NCAA.”
First up, the Harvard field athletes put up some impressive numbers. Senior Alexander Kolesnikoff, who set an NCAA leading throw last week, set yet another NCAA lead in the men’s shot put, throwing 20.69 m to earn gold. His throw also set the meet record in the event. Kolesnikoff’s teammate, sophomore Kenneth Ikeji, followed his lead, throwing 69.67 m in the men’s hammer throw to take first place and set the meet record.
Jumpers sophomore Daniel Falode and senior Kyle Murphy won their events in the men’s triple jump and long jump, respectively. Falode jumped a personal best of 15.80 m to put him at eleventh in the nation, and Murphy jumped 6.88 m.
Senior Sarah Omoregie threw a personal best in the women’s shot put at 17.66 m, a mere .25 m short of the Harvard school record. Senior Estel Valeanu also got on the podium for the same event, throwing a personal best of 15.15 m to take silver, as well as putting her third in the record books. Valeanu also returned to throw a personal best of 56.17 m in the women’s discus to win the event.
In the women’s hammer throw, seniors Stephanie Ratcliffe and Cammy Garabian took first and second with throws of 67.16 m and 57.37 m respectively. Sophomore Anastasia Retsa cleared 4.20 m in the women’s pole vault to win the event and set a new indoor event record.
On the track, the Crimson continued to represent the school well against the two UK competitors. On the distance side, Harvard set a standard for the rest of the competition to follow. The top two finishers in each race would qualify to travel to England over the summer to compete at the HYOC meet held there.
“It was also an important meet for some athletes because the qualifier for making the HYOC team that actually goes to England, so we all went into the races hoping to get top two in an event, so everyone was kind of vying for those positions,” Blanks said.
First-year Kristin Otervik started the running events off well for Harvard, leading the women’s 3000 m steeplechase to get first place in 10:24 seconds. In the same event for the men, sophomore Reed Pryor won with a time of 9:07.94 seconds. In the women’s 800 m, sophomore Marianne Mihas ran 2:11.24 seconds to earn first place.
Junior Maia Ramsden ran 4:15.77 seconds in the women’s 1500 m run to win the event, a full 12 seconds faster than the second-place finisher. In the men’s 1500 m, first-year Vivien Henz ran a time of 3:57.72 seconds to earn second place for the Crimson.
Ramsden also returned to the track for the women’s 5000 m run, setting a new personal best with 16:08.27 seconds and beating the rest of the field by almost 15 seconds. In the men’s 5000 m, Harvard swept the event, taking first, second, and third places. Blanks crossed the finish line first in 14:07.67 seconds, with junior Acer Iverson and sophomore Ben Rosa following close behind with times of 14:08.83 seconds and 14:10.74 seconds respectively.
“It was really cool,” said Blanks about the 5000 m run. “It was one of our best team track races we’ve had in a while. [In indoor Ivy Championships] Acer and I were able to work together super well, but to have Ben Rosa up there this time was really cool.”
“Looking back at the videos and pictures at the three of us pulling away, it makes me pretty proud to have that Harvard jersey on and hopefully we can keep doing that all the way into the Ivy League Championships in the outdoor season,” he added.
The sprinters also tore down the track with some fast races.
First-year Josefina Biernacki ran a time of 14.07 seconds in the women’s 100 m hurdles to win the event. In the men’s 110 m hurdles, senior Aaron Shirley went head to head with one other competitor in the event to win it in 14.44 seconds. In the women’s 100 m dash, junior Egbe Ndip-Anor took first place, running a time of 12.10 seconds. In the same event for the men, junior Lance Ward ran 10.48 to get first place, maintaining his lead throughout the entire race.
Her first time competing in the women’s 400 m dash this outdoor season, sophomore Victoria Bossong won the event in 55.23 seconds. First-year Jacklynn Okerekie won the women’s 400 m hurdles in a time of 1:02.82 seconds, holding off her competitors for the entire lap.
In the last event of the day, the mixed 4x400 relay, the team consisted of two Harvard and two Yale runners. The two Ivy League schools won the event, with sprinters Ward and Bossong representing the Crimson. Ward anchored for the team, crossing the finish line at 3:29.22 seconds.
When asked about the most exciting performances to watch, Blanks commented, “Definitely Alexander Kolesnikoff, he set a pretty big PR. He’s No. 1 in the NCAA right now — that’s really cool to see that the throws program is doing super well right now.”
“It was also fun to watch the 1500 [meter race] as it always is, for the men’s,” he continued. “I really enjoyed watching Vivien getting back on track, [he] had a great race. It was good to just see everyone run pretty well despite the competition and the weather.”
Going forward, Harvard track and field is looking to hone in on its skills.
“A lot of the building of mileage is kind of done,” said Blanks about the team’s training going forward. “We’re looking to start doing some big workouts, fast stuff at practice. The advice from our coach is to kind of just buckle down, we’ve got a couple more months of competition and the big stuff is coming up fast, so we’re looking to start sharpening and get ready for that.”
Up next, the team will travel to Providence College and UConn Northeast Challenge on April 14th and 15th.
— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at email@example.com
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