In its final weekend of the regular season, the Harvard track and field team made one thing very clear: It is ready for the postseason.
Members of both the Crimson’s men’s and women’s squads turned in impressive performances over the weekend, as they traveled to the Penn Relays, the Brown Springtime Invitational, and the Payton Jordan Invitational.
Though next weekend’s Outdoor Heptagonal Championships is Harvard’s most important meet of the outdoor season, the Crimson competed in the largest meet on its schedule this past weekend—the Penn Relays.
Fielding over 14,000 competitors, from high schoolers to professional runners, the Penn Relays allowed a number of Harvard’s athletes an opportunity to face off against some elite competition. Track and field powerhouses Texas A&M and LSU were both in attendance at the 117th installment of the meet, held at Penn’s historic Franklin Field in Philadelphia.
“You see some of the best athletes in the country,” Saretsky said. “[The level of competition] was very, very strong, as it is every year [at the Penn Relays].”
But the level of competition that Harvard faced was not the only unique aspect of the relays. Total attendance at the three-day event is roughly 100,000 people, many of who are there to watch some of the world’s best track and field athletes.
“The size of the meet is incredible,” sophomore Alaina Murphy said. “There’s so much excitement, not just toward the athletes, but toward track and field in general.”
Saretsky noted that, due to the number of spectators at Franklin Field, athletes were not given a typical amount of time to warm up for their races. The noise during races was also problematic, according to Saretsky, as athletes are often unable to hear their coaches.
“Penn Relays is really about the fans and is not at all athlete-friendly,” Saretsky said. “So as an athlete, you have to make adjustments and just go out there and perform despite the adverse conditions.”
The conditions proved to be a nonfactor for some members of the Crimson squad, as the team delivered some personal-best performances and picked up a pair of event wins in the process.
“It was a great meet for us,” Saretsky said. “We rested a number of athletes [because] it was the week before [the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships], but we took a solid group down to the Penn Relays, and I think we performed really, really well.”
Murphy and classmate Natalia Paine, freshman Erika Veidis, and senior Meg Looney earned an event win for Harvard in the 4x800 meter relay. The team crossed the finish line in 8:53.95, a time that ranks sixth in school history, to top a field that included Purdue University (second place) and Ivy foe Penn (fourth place). The Crimson did not hold the lead in the event until the last leg, when Looney picked up the pace and earned her team the victory.
“[Looney] really thrived on having that crowd cheer her on as she rounded the final turn,” Saretsky said.
Away from the track, the Crimson’s throwers continued to be a force to be reckoned with.