As most of the Harvard track and field team stayed in the cold weather of Cambridge to prepare for the upcoming spring season, three of the team’s top athletes were given the chance to compete in the hot weather of Albuquerque, N.M. at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend.
Seniors Maksim Korolev and James Leakos and junior Erika Veidis represented the Crimson at the national event. Korolev competed in both the 3000 and 5000-meter races while Leakos competed in the 5000 and Veidis in the 800-meter. Although each struggled over the weekend, the chance to represent their school on a national level was a great experience and has added to the anticipation of the spring season, according to Harvard coach Jason Saretsky.
“Overall I was really pleased that we were able to have such great representation at the national championship,” Saretsky said. “I thought our student-athletes competed valiantly, and I was proud of their effort.”
To say that Korolev has been having a strong senior campaign would be an understatement. After finishing third overall in the cross country NCAA Championships with a time of 29:59.5 in the 10K race, Korolev has not slowed down coming into the indoor season.
The senior earned a spot in the 3K in Albuquerque at the Valentine Invitational on Feb. 8th with a time of 7:51.52, and he claimed a place in the 5K championship at the Terrier invitational on January 25th with a time of 13:42.56. The Missouri native currently holds the school and Ivy League records in both events.
“Both [races] have similar plans of getting out there and getting a good position…hopefully giving him a chance to use that big strong kick that he’s got,” Saretsky said.
But Korolev had a harder time this weekend. The senior finished 13th in the 5K with a time of 14:34.41 and 14th in the 3K with a time of 8:28.55. He was named a second team All-American in both events.
Leakos almost didn’t get to race at the championship meet. After earning a spot last minute due to a scratch, the 5K Ivy League champion would get to race again alongside his teammate, Korolev, with a seed time of 13:49.78.
“Those guys have raced tremendously hard for a long time,” Saretsky said. “It’s great to see their hard work pay off and to have the opportunity to compete at the national championships is great.”
Unfortunately, Leakos did not finish the 5K race.
“The guys both had tough races also but I think it makes us all hungrier for [the] outdoor [season],” Veidis said.
Veidis is no stranger to national competition either. This was the junior’s second consecutive year racing at the NCAA Championships in the 800-meter. Last year, Veidis finished 10th overall with a time of 2:06.69, just missing qualifying for the finals heat.
“Last year I was definitely terrified being there, and this year I felt a little more confident,” Veidis said. “I know last year I placed a lot of those girls on a pedestal, and this year I really had a sense like I belonged there. I think it definitely shows that I’ve grown a lot as an athlete.”
Veidis qualified this season for the 800-meter race with a seed time of 2:05.00 which she earned at the BU Terrier Invitational. She finished 15th overall with a time of 2:11.03, failing to make it to the final heat. The junior was also named a second team All-American.
“My race was pretty horrible luck. I came down with something over the last couple days,” Veidis said. “I’ve never felt worse in a race but I’m glad I made myself race anyway. I would have been pretty disappointed if I had scratched. I definitely am very hungry for outdoor now, because watching the 800-meter final yesterday, I knew that I could have definitely placed pretty highly.”
—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at email@example.com.