Seven from Track and Field Compete at NCAA National Championships

Looking to wrap up a prolific season, a program-best seven members of the Harvard Track and Field team traveled to Eugene, Or. to compete against the best of the nation in the NCAA National Outdoor Championships. 

While the competition proved to be as rigorous as advertised, the young team provided a competitive effort while gaining invaluable experience and picking up a few honors in a successful end of the season.

“[The success] is indicative of how far the program has gone and the direction that it’s going,” triple jumper Efe Uwaifo said. “Many of us are [underclassmen]…. It just shows that we’re going to be here, and there are many other in the pipeline who are going to be fighting for spots here.”

The team got started early on Wednesday, with junior Erika Veidis competing in the semifinals of the women’s 800 meters. Veidis clocked in with a time of 2:06.03, placing 16th in the field, just over a second off from qualifying to the finals.

The junior was joined that same day by her fellow female team members as sophomore Autumne Franklin and freshman Jade Miller competed in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

Franklin placed 10th in the field, while Miller was close by with a 12th place finish, pacing the race with times of 57.48 and 57.91 seconds respectively, just short of the 57.24 second performance which marked the tail end of the qualifying sprinters.

Though none of the runners were able to qualify to their respective final rounds, the top 16 performances from the three athletes were good enough to garner Second Team All-American honors.

In the women’s javelin throw, junior Hannah Mayer looked to successfully cap off a season in which she set both the Harvard and the Ivy League record with a distance of 50.04 meters.

However, the junior would be unable to record a successful throw, instead recording three misses in as many attempts.

Despite the performance, head coach Jason Saretsky believes that the result does not diminish the successful season Mayer had.

“It’s the nature of the [javelin throw], sometimes it doesn’t go your way.” Saretsky said. “[Mayer] has had an outstanding season…. She had an outstanding spring, not only scoring big points for us at the Ivy League Championships, but winning ECAC, breaking the school record and getting to this meet. She has a lot to be proud of.”

Mayer was not the only Crimson athlete to struggle however, as senior James Leakos would be disqualified from the 10-kilometer race despite a solid performance.

While Leakos would have a strong race which saw him finish ahead of many runners and even lap a competitor, he was judged to have left the area of competition during the race, resulting in his race being voided.

While the two performances were disappointing, Harvard would continue a strong showing via sophomore distance runner Tom Purnell.

In a stacked 5-kilometer field that included NCAA Cross Country National Champion Edward Cheserek and runner-up Kennedy Kithuka as well as defending champion Lawi Lalang, the sophomore would clock in at 14:14.07, good for 20th.

The Crimson would finish its performance in the triple jump, where Uwaifo, the only freshman in the field, would land a jump of 15.24 meters to place 24th.

Even though the showing was not what the rookie wanted, Uwaifo believes that the meet was a good way to gain experience and prepare for his trials with the British national team later on this summer.

“It’s definitely an honor to be that guy.” Uwaifo said. “It was good experience to compete against these guys…. It was a wake-up call. I’ve never been in a competition where so many guys are jumping so far. That was definitely a wake-up call but I’ll definitely learn from it, just watching what they were doing.”

While none of the athletes were able to place high enough to qualify for finals in their respective events or achieve First Team All-American honors, the athletes gained valuable experience.

With Leakos as the only senior who qualified, the remaining athletes will return next year with valuable experience under their belt. Saretsky believes that this will be good for the success of both these athletes and other teammates as well.

“It was great to see three of our student athletes get Second Team All-American honors,” Saretsky said. “What’s really exciting is that six of the seven [members] are underclassmen that are back next year so hopefully we can send them and some more of their teammates back to Eugene.”

—Staff writer Julio Fierro can be reached at jfierro01@college.harvard.edu.

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