Track and Field Races to First Place Finishes in Harvard Challenge

Junior captain Adabelle Ekechukwu wasted no time in letting her competitors know that she is a force to be reckoned with in 2013.

Ekechukwu’s performance in the weight throw ring at Gordon Indoor Track on Saturday not only earned her first place in the event, but also shattered her own school record by over 0.3 meters. With a mark of 19.22 meters, the junior, who is also a Crimson arts and multimedia editor, became the first woman in Harvard history to eclipse 19 meters in the weight throw.

“I'm happy with how I opened up,” Ekechukwu said. “I've been chasing a certain distance for a while, and it's nice seeing myself getting closer to my goal…. [The Harvard Challenge] was like reaching a checkpoint in the grander scheme of things.”

But Ekechukwu was not the only athlete on her squad to kick off the season in a strong fashion. In total, the Crimson men and women set five school records at the Harvard Challenge en route to a pair of team victories over Army, Northeastern, Brown, MIT, and Williams. The Harvard men finished with 78.5 points while the women’s team scored 112.5 on the day.

“I think [breaking five school records] says a lot about what’s to come,” Crimson coach Jason Saretsky said. “This early in the year, we’re still knocking out the roster and working out some kinks, so I really think this is just a taste of what’s to come. I could see that record board having to do a pretty major facelift by the time the year’s done.”

On the women’s side, sophomore middle distance runner Molly Renfer joined Ekechukwu in earning a spot in the record books. Renfer cruised to a victory in the 1000-meter run with a program-best time of 2:49.06. Her nearest competitor, the Black Knight’s Jennifer Comfort, finished nearly four seconds later, allowing Renfer to pick up seven team points for Harvard.

Junior Morgan Kelly, who was recently named the women’s cross country captain for next season, took home first place in the 3000-meter run, just missing the 10-minute mark with a finish of 10:01.15. Kelly’s cross country teammate, sophomore Viviana Hanley, also earned points in the 3000 by finishing in fourth place at the season opener.

Perhaps the most impressive event for the women’s team was the 500-meter run, in which sophomores Erika Veidis and Gabrielle Scott as well as freshman Autumne Franklin turned in a 1-2-3 finish. Veidis led the way for the Crimson by breaking the school record in the event with a time of 1:13.28.

“Right from the gun, it was very clear that the Harvard women were taking control of the race,” Saretsky said. “Erika had a fantastic finish to get under that school record. But the most exciting part is that [the 500-meter run] is not even her primary event, she’s more of an 800 runner, so I think that she’ll get even stronger as the distance goes up.”

Not to be outdone by her throwing and middle distance counterparts, sophomore sprinter Danielle Barbian set the school record in the preliminary heat of the 60-meter dash. Barbian ran a time of 7.61 seconds in the preliminaries and went on to win the event with a 7.70 in the final heat.

On the men’s side, the Harvard throwers picked up right where they left off in the 2012 season. Junior Dustin Brode teamed up with sophomores Ben Glauser and Igor Liokumovich to finish 1-2-3 in the shot put and 1-2-4 in the weight throw. Brode took home the top spot in the former with a hurl of 17.09 meters, and Glauser took the helm in the weight throw with a 18.62-meter toss.

“Coach [Andrew] Dubs has done a phenomenal job with our throwers,” Saretsky said. “Sometimes it’s a more challenging coaching task to take a group that has had success and make them even more successful. But that group has bought it; they believe in the training that they’re doing.”

Dubs, who replaced Cathrine Eriksen as the Crimson’s throwing coach this season, is also earning praise from his athletes.

“Coach Dubs has been amazing,” Ekechukwu said. “He had a great college career and is so easy to talk to, so it's been easier understanding and trusting the advice he gives. I've had two years to learn the fundamentals, but I'm really glad he's here now to help make things click.”

Sophomore Jarvis Harris also had a noteworthy outing on Saturday, capturing two event titles with a pair of personal-best marks. Harris broke the school record that he set as a freshman in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.02 seconds. The Ama, La. native then went on to win the triple jump with a leap of 14.8 meters, 0.65 meters farther than the event’s second-place finisher.

“Jarvis had a great day,” Saretsky said. “There are definitely things he knows he can improve on and things he can clean up, but I’m expecting some great things from Jarvis. I think it’s going to be a very exciting year for him.”

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

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