TRACK AND FIELD: Differing Trajectories for Men’s, Women’s Teams

This season, the Harvard men’s track and field team saved its best performance for last.

Behind stellar outings from its throwers and freshman competitors, the Crimson finished in third place at the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships—a feat that it had not accomplished since 2002.

“We really came together as a team,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky says. “There were a number of events that didn’t go our way, but the way that we bounced back and were able to rally and compete said a lot about our character and our resolve. That, to me, was the most exciting part of this track season.”

But the Crimson did not always enjoy the kind of success that it had at outdoor Heps.

Instead, the squad spent much of the indoor season struggling to find its identity. In spite of strong outings from the squad’s most competitive athletes, Harvard was unable to put together a complete team effort to reach its collective potential.

“I think we felt that there was something missing [in the indoor season],” Saretsky says. “There was something that we were looking to see.”

Two months and 15 tune-up events after Harvard finished in fourth place at the Indoor Heptagonal Championships, the squad tallied 92.75 points at outdoor Heps to earn third place. Though it finished only one spot higher than at indoor Heps, the Crimson was able to separate itself by over 20 points from fourth-place Brown to cap off the outdoor season.

The team’s throwers were dominant at the outdoor Heps as they had been all season long. Harvard racked up a combined 42 points in the javelin, hammer throw, shot put, and discus.

Freshmen throwers Dean Sullivan and Ben Glauser contributed 26 points to the Crimson’s total. Sullivan, who trained with captain javelin thrower Nick Farnsworth throughout the season, won the Ivy championship with a mark of 63.68 meters.

“We would constantly push each other and push ourselves at practice,” Sullivan says of training with Farnsworth. “I think that all culminated at Heps. Everything just went well for us.”

Sullivan is just one of Harvard’s group of first-years that was expected to make key contributions this season. The Crimson men boasted a recruiting class that was ranked fifth in the nation—the best in Ancient Eight history—by Track and Field News.

On the track, rookie Jarvis Harris made some noise early in the year by breaking the school record in the 60-meter hurdles. At the Battle of Beantown, which was held at Gordon Indoor Track, Harris completed the race in 8.11 seconds to top an 11-year-old record.

And though Harris’ prowess earned him a spot in the record books, junior pole vaulter Nico Weiler took history-making to a new level this season.

Weiler, the school’s record holder in the pole vault (5.38 meters), was a force for Harvard in 2011-12. Except at the outdoor Heps—where in a shocking disappointment he failed to clear a single jump—Weiler was the top collegiate finisher at each of the Crimson’s outdoor meets, even when matching up against vaulters from some of the best track and field programs in the country. At every regular-season outdoor meet, Weiler topped the clearance made by Stephen Brannon ’95 (5.13 meters), who stands at No. 2 in Harvard history.

On the women’s side, the Crimson was unable to put together a performance akin to the men’s at outdoor Heps. The Harvard women also finished in fourth place at the indoor championships, but faltered at the outdoor meet,  where they finished in sixth with 71 team points.

Co-captain Meghan Looney excelled for the Crimson during the indoor season in the 800-meter run. Looney captured the individual league title in the event with a time of 2:10.35.

In the outdoor season, Looney joined freshman Erika Veidis and sophomores Alaina Murphy and Natalia Paine on the 4x800 meter relay team. At the largest meet on Harvard’s schedule, the Penn Relays, the team rose to the occasion and finished in first place, crossing the finish line in 8:53.95.

In spite of the women’s finish to the season, Saretsky remains optimistic for the future of the Harvard track and field program.

“We can compete with the best programs in the league,” Saretsky says. “And if we can do that, we can also be competitive at the national level.... The potential that we have on this team is ready to be turned into reality.”

—Staff writer Dominic A. Martinez can be reached at dmartinez@college.harvard.edu.

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