After weeks of traveling to the far corners of the country, the Crimson track team finally got a preview of its Ivy League competition a bit closer to home. Harvard traveled to Princeton, N.J. for the Sam Howell Invitational on Friday and Saturday, taking on a field that included Yale, Princeton, and many other New England schools.
“It was a good [meet] for this point in the season,” said men’s co-captain Justin Grinstead. “We were able to have some teams that we’ll see later on and some lighter competition, so it was not too intense, but enough to work on the competitive mindset.”
The Crimson showed plenty of intensity on the track, though, capturing three events as part of a solid team effort.
“A number of performances were really outstanding—it’s hard to narrow it down,” Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. “Overall, I thought it was a great meet.”
The track team appeared particularly impressive as a large squad due to its success in the relays—demonstrating the program’s emphasis on team effort. The women’s 4x400-meter team of sophomores Magda Robak and Shannon Conway and freshmen Melissa Bellin and Jasmine Cho blazed past their opponents, crossing the line first in 3:48.29.
“The women’s 4x400 ran really well with a lot of really good legs,” Grinstead said. “The relays are always a really fun event to get together and get more of the team involved. It starts off the meet and gets everyone charged up.”
The men’s 4x100-meter team of sophomores Stephen Gelonek, John Dingus, and Jonathan Meminger and junior John Fahnenstiel also fared well, taking third with a time of 42.35 in a competitive field. But Gelonek noted that the squad has room for improvement.
“We have some good runners, but right now, we’re still trying to get in sync with each other,” he said. “It was a decent race...We’re trying to get into the low-41 [second range] instead of mid-42’s.”
Still, Saretsky noted progress for the young relay team. And while these group efforts demonstrated the depth of the Crimson’s runners, a few individuals continued to stand out.
Rookie Ashtynn Baltimore claimed one of two individual titles on the day, winning the women’s long jump in decisive fashion with a leap of 5.84 meters. The other winner was Bellin, who added to a “monster leg,” according to Saretsky, in the 4x400 with a victory in the 400-meter hurdles. The rookie’s time of 1:02.43 represented a significant drop from just two weeks ago.
“[Bellin] has been great—she took quite a bit of time off what she ran in Houston [at the Texas Southern Relays],” Saretsky said. “She’s put in the work and she’s in great shape, so it was great to see her go out and do well.”
Freshmen Olivia Weeks and Meghan Ferreira rounded out a strong weekend for the first-year women, as Weeks took third in the triple jump with an mark of 11.95 meters while Ferreira crossed the line in second in the 100-meter hurdles.
“I’m excited that our freshmen have done pretty well so far,” Gelonek said of the standout effort from rookies, but there was plenty of success to go around.
Gelonek and classmate Robbie Paris had strong showings in the 100-meter dash and 400-meter hurdles, respectively. Gelonek took second despite a nagging hamstring injury, while Paris notched a significant personal best in 55.0 seconds, good enough for sixth.
“Last year, [Paris] had a bit of an injury-plagued freshman year,” Saretsky said. “This year, he’s doing a much better job of managing the aches and pains. He took a big step in the 400 hurdles [this weekend], and there’s much more to come there.”
Cho and junior Hilary May also enjoyed good weekends, placing fourth in the women’s 400-meter and 800-meter races, respectively, while a pair of Crimson competitors—junior Dina Emde and rookie Mary Hirst—tied for fourth in the high jump after clearing the 1.65-meter mark.
With such success across a wide range of events, Harvard was able to take encouragement from its performance in Weaver Track & Field Stadium—the venue that will play host to the Heptagonal Championships in just over a month.
“It’s great to be able to get onto the facility [before Heps],” Saretsky said. “We were able to get the lay of the land and [a feel] for how we match up with other Ivy League schools...The meet boded well for what’s to come.”
—Staff writer Max N. Brondfield can be reached at email@example.com.
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