Harvard Snags Ninth In Track Tournament
Junior Meredith Rainey captured first place in the 800-meter run and Suzanne Jones finished second in the 10,000-meter race at the NCAA Track and Field Championships held in Provo, Utah, last Friday.
Rainey captured Harvard's first-ever NCAA track title by crossing the line in 2:03.90. Jones finished her race in 33:45.40.
Even though the Crimson only had two runners in the NCAA championships, the two combined for 18 points, good enough for a team finish of ninth overall, the best performance ever for an outdoor Crimson team. There were more than 40 teams represented in the finals.
"We told the coaches that we were going to start making demands," Jones said.
Going into the 800-meter trials, Rainey was seeded fifth according to her time. But after her heat, in which she ran a 2:04.59, Rainey had the best time entering the finals. That time also broke the Harvard record she set in April.
After the first of two laps in the final race, Rainey was boxed in by several runners. It wasn't until the last 200 meters that she was able to capitalize on her excellent kick to break through the box, passing USC's Michelle Taylor and Edith Nakiyingi of Iowa State down the final stretch.
Rainey, who now holds Harvard records in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter runs, gained 10 meters across the final 200 meters of the race, and finished five meters ahead of her nearest competitor.
"Her race was just incredible," Jones said. "It was exciting to watch. We were a little nervous [when she was] coming into the last 200 meters. But she got an opening and blew by the rest of the girls and left them standing still."
"We thought she would do well," Coach Ed Sheehan said. "We felt after the trials that she would win the finals. She beat an excellent field of runners."
Jones ended the season with a second-place finish in the 10k. The eight-person field came down to two runners, Jones and eventual winner Jackie Goodman of Oklahoma State. Jones and Goodman finished 15 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher.
"Suzanne ran a tremendous race," Sheehan said. "She just ran a great race, an intelligent race. Suzanne made the break with her, catching up to her each time. It wasn't until the last 200 meters that Goodman made a sustained run."
"Everytime Jackie challenged her, Suzanne was up to it," Rainey said. "She went right with her each time."
Whenever a Crimson athlete reaches the NCAA championships, he or she is bound to get stares from the competition because of the Harvard label. It was no different for Rainey and Jones.
"I think [the other runners] stopped thinking of me as a Harvard runner, but as a person who can run even though I don't go to a big track school," Rainey said. "It may have been a little tough for them to swallow, the fact that Harvard runners beat them. But I think we gained some respect after it was over."
Jones was named All-America for the third time this year--she earned the same honor in cross country and indoor track. Rainey received All-America honors for her performance in the 800s.