Track and Field to Send Record Number to NCAA Championships

Hoping to continue what has been a successful season, members of the Harvard Track and Field team traveled to Jacksonville, Fla. to compete in the NCAA East Preliminaries and attempt to qualify to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.

The Crimson athletes followed the trend of success that has characterized the team this year, as a school-record seven competitors qualified to the championships, which will begin on June 11th.

The team got off to a great start from day one, as junior Hannah Mayer qualified to finished eighth overall in the javelin with a distance of 50.04 meters. The throw not only beat Mayer’s old school record, but the distance also set a new Ivy League record by over two meters.

“[Mayer] breaking not only the school record but the Ivy League record was an incredible accomplishment,” Crimson coach Jason Saretsky said. “She’s gone through quite a bit with injuries and being able to overcome that, I’m so thrilled for her to make it to Eugene.”

Joining Mayer on the list of day one qualifiers for Harvard was senior James Leakos. The distance runner clocked in with a time of 29:54.20 in the 10-kilometer race, good enough for fifth overall to start off what would be a solid showing from the distance runners.

The Crimson fell just short of a third qualifier as senior Emily Reese ran the 10k in a time of 34:26.00, good enough for 14th overall, just two positions short of qualifying to Eugene.

The distance runners continued their success via sophomore Tom Purnell, who raced the 5-kilometer race in 14:14.95 to qualify after finishing 11th place overall.

In addition to the success of the distance runners, Harvard also demonstrated success in the middle distances, as junior Erika Veidis qualified to the championships, pacing the 800 meters in 2:04.72 to place 10th in the field.

In addition to the success of these runners, the underclassmen showed their strength on the sprints and field.

400-meter hurdle teammates Autumne Franklin and Jade Miller qualified with personal best times of 56.65 and 57.22, respectively, placing seventh and ninth overall in the field. The performances were also the second and third-best all-time for the event in both the Harvard and Ancient Eight record books. Miller was also the only freshman to qualify in this event.

Following in their success, freshman Efe Uwaifo qualified in the triple jump with a distance of 15.57 meters, placing him in 12th overall and first for all freshman in the event, though the London, England native believes there is room to improve

“My jump was far from technically perfect so there’s still a lot to work on going into nationals,” Uwaifo said. “I’m confident I can put everything together and get a big jump out in Eugene.”  

The freshman becomes the first Harvard athlete to qualify in the even since former All American Samyr Laine, who competed for Haiti in the 2012 Olympics.

Saretsky believes that the youth of the group bodes well for future competitions.

“It’s great to be able to have so many underclassmen representing Harvard,” Saretsky said. “Miller is another freshman who qualified, [and] Franklin and [Purnell] are only sophomores. It’s a pretty young group overall.”

While not everyone managed to qualify, other members of the team achieved individual successes that show promise for the future of the program.

Freshman Elliot Safo held his own in a stacked long jump field, achieving a mark of 7.47 meters to finish 15th in the field, a mere .03 meters short of the final qualifying position.

Fellow classmate Nikki Okwelogu turned in a solid performance as well, placing 16th in shotput with a personal best throw of 16.05 meters, the top mark for all freshman in the field, and 20th in the discus with a mark of 50.21 meters.

The Crimson had other athletes come close to qualifying, as junior Molly Renfer ran a time of 4:22.56 to finish 18th overall, while the women’s 4-x-400-meter relay clocked in with a time of 3:37.55 to place 19th.

Saretsky believes that the success of the athletes at the competition demonstrates the growth of the team and is helpful for making the program an increasingly attractive option for incoming athletes. 

“[The program] continues to go upwards,” Saretsky said. “None of us on the coaching staff are satisfied or feel we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve. There’s still more to come and I think that’s very encouraging for recruits and alums and everyone in the community.”

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

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