Junior co-captain Adabelle Ekechukwu broke the Ivy League record in the women’s weight throw at the annual HYP track and field meet this past weekend in Princeton, N.J. Her winning throw of 20.11 meters makes her the first woman in Ivy League history to break the 20-meter mark.
Ekechukwu’s performance helped the Crimson to a second-place finish in the meet with 55 points. Princeton won with a total of 79 points, and Yale finished third with 25.
The women’s weight throw featured a showdown between Ekechukwu and the freshman standout from Princeton, Julia Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe, the record holder in her home country of New Zealand, set a personal best of 19.74 meters, but it was no match for Ekechukwu, who broke the record on the first of her five attempts with a 20.03-meter toss. The junior’s third attempt was her best of the day, as she turned in her record-breaking third throw of 20.11 meters.
“I knew who my competitor was,” Ekechukwu said. “[Julia Ratcliffe], on the Princeton team, who has been having a very good indoor season as well. I just came in with a very competitive mindset. I was ready to go after her.”
Ekechukwu, who is also a Crimson arts and multimedia editor, dominated last year’s HYP meet at Harvard, beating her next closest competitor by more than two meters. However, Ratcliffe held the Ivy League record coming into this year’s HYP meet, having set it at 19.69 meters earlier this year at the Princeton Quad Meet on Jan. 16.
“I knew she was going to be a good competitor,” Ekechukwu said. “But my coach was telling me that it is not really good to be going after numbers…. So while I was expecting to put up a fight against her it wasn’t really my main concern. I was just concerned with doing well for myself and doing well for my team.”
Head coach Jason Saretsky acknowledged the competition between the junior and freshman, and was glad to see Ekechukwu get the better of Ratcliffe.
“Adabelle has certainly stepped up to that challenge [from Ratcliffe],” Saretsky said. “And she’s done a remarkable job not only matching her, but surpassing her.”
First-year throwing coach Andrew Dubs has only been working with the team since September, when he took over for Cathrine Eriksen, who is now the director of cross country and track and field at Northeastern. In this short period of time, Dubs has had a strong impact on the Harvard throwers, Ekechukwu in particular.
“I was just really pleased with Adabelle and the way she performed and competed,” Dubs said. “She was very focused all day leading up to the meet and she was on fire once the competition started.”
After its performance this weekend, the Crimson now look ahead to the Heptagonal Championships set to take place at Gordon Indoor Track Feb. 23 and 24th.
“I think it was good that Adabelle was able to get the first strike in there with her victory.” Dubs said. “Now hopefully we can duplicate that in a couple weeks and come out on top.”
The junior is also looking forward to the opportunity to compete at her home track.
“I am just excited for the crowds that will be there,” Ekechukwu said. “I am excited for the energy that the women’s team is going to bring, and I am just excited for my teammates to do well in general.”
As the competition approaches, Dubs knows Ekechukwu won’t lose focus in practice.
“It is a pleasure to come to work everyday, and to go to practice with her,” Dubs said. “She is very dedicated and a very hard worker, just a pleasure to be around.”
Though he was pleased with Ekechukwu’s record-breaking performance, Saretsky thinks the future may be even brighter for his junior co-captain.
“[Ekechukwu] has been ready for this for a while now,” Saretsky said,” So it was fantastic to see things finally click…. I still think there’s more to come [from her].”
While these may seem like lofty expectations, Saretsky believes that Ekechukwu has what it takes to excel both in the Ivy League and beyond.
"She’s got all the things you look for in a national-caliber thrower,” Saretsky said. “She’s got a great work-ethic. She’s fast, explosive, and extremely strong. All the tools that you look for, she’s got. And the most important part of it is the heart. She really is passionate about what she does and is really committed to this."