It was the weekend that the Harvard track and field program has been waiting for all season. As the team competed at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships Saturday and Sunday at Yale, their hard work certainly paid off.
Just as they did at the Indoor Heptagonal Meet, the women claimed the Ivy title with a final score of 162 points. The men’s team repeated a third place finish, ending the meet with 109 points behind first-place Cornell and second-place Princeton. The women’s title is only their second since the team began competing in the Heptagonal meet in 1979, with their only other victory coming in 1990.
Along with the women’s team title, eight Crimson athletes earned individual titles, while several others set personal bests or added their names to the record books.
Thunderstorms delayed day one of competition, but that didn’t slow down the men’s team, which topped the leaderboard at the end of Saturday’s events. One of the big players in putting them ahead was freshman Elliot Safo, who competed in the long jump competition.
Prior to Saturday’s competition, the men’s long jump record had not been broken since Babe Ruth was playing for the Yankees and lightweight crew at Harvard was in its inaugural season. Safo’s 7.73-meter jump was the first Crimson long jump victory since 1983 and upended Edward O. Gourdin ’21 and his 93-year old record.
“It’s critical for our program to have the freshmen be able to come in and step up the way that they have” coach Jason Saretsky said. “We are really fortunate [that] the types of student-athletes we are able to attract to the team…have the composure and the experience to go into this arena and perform at such a high level.”
Two other Harvard athletes also claimed individual Ivy titles on day one for the men. Junior Ben Glauser claimed victory in the hammer throw with a personal best of 63.71 meters, and was good enough for second all-time for the Crimson.
Junior Dean Sullivan was also victorious on the field, topping the podium in the javelin for the second year in a row. His throw of 67.99m puts him second in Harvard and Ivy League history.
Having finished day one in third place, the women needed the scores from day two to put them ahead in overall points.
Freshman Nikki Okwelogu continued her dominance by claiming the Heps shot put title with a throw of 16.09m. This personal best for Okwelogu was 1.31m longer than the previous Crimson record set by Nicole Carkeek ’91. The victory for Okwelogu along with a fifth place finish by senior Alysha Johnson and a sixth place finish by senior Adabelle Ekechukwu also allowed the women to clinch the overall Ivy title and put the other teams out of reach.
“In the past couple of weeks, my form has been coming together,” Okwelogu said. “I’m just glad it manifested in this meet where it counts.”
The field events, however, weren’t the only ones breaking records. On the track, junior Erika Veidis claimed the title in the 800m race with a time of 2:06.23 to become the first Harvard titleholder in the event since 1995.
The 4x100 relay team of junior Ashley Collinsworth, freshman Jade Miller, sophomore Autumne Franklin, and junior Danielle Barbian beat their own Harvard record and broke the Ivy League record with a time of of 45.4, less than a half a second faster than they did earlier this year.
Miller and Frankin added to the team’s individual titles in the hurdle events. Miller was victorious in the 400m hurdles with a time of 58.72. Franklin won her second straight title in the 100m hurdles with a time of 13.57.
“It was a fantastic weekend for Harvard track and field,” Saretsky said. “By my estimations, we are the best combined program in the Ivy League.”
—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at email@example.com.