Paige Kouba, co-captain of the Harvard women’s track and field team, is no stranger to the Olympic Trials. After all, each year they’re held in Eugene, Oregon—her hometown—and Kouba has attended the last two contests as a volunteer, helping to carry gear for the athletes.
She’ll be attending the upcoming trials, though, in a different capacity.
This past weekend, Kouba—along with sophomore Courtney Smith and senior Autumne Franklin—qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials at the Florida Relays and Stanford Invitational.
They will be joining freshman Gabby Thomas, who qualified last weekend in the 200 meter dash and qualified again this weekend in the 100 meter dash.
"It was a great weekend,” Kouba said. “Both coasts featured very strong performances from our girls…. [It was] just perfect weather, great meet, and a total blast.”
Kouba bested the field and the Harvard record in the 3,000 meter steeplechase with a time of 9:50.21, nearly three seconds ahead of the USA Olympic Trial qualifying time and the top time in the country to this point.
Sophomore Courtney Smith also posted the top time in the country—and, more importantly, one of the top eight fastest times in NCAA history—in the 10,000 meter by finishing the race at 32:08.32. Her time bested not only the USA Olympic Trial qualifying standard, but also the International Olympic qualifying standards, set for each games by the International Association of Athletics Federation.
Smith also beat her previous personal record by a whopping 2:45, and beat the old Ivy record by nearly 43 seconds.
“Courtney is 100 percent work ethic and dedication and grit,” Kouba said. “To say that she did well this weekend doesn’t even begin to capture it. She’s got a lot more coming in the future as well.”
On the other side of the country, the Crimson continued its weekend success with another pair of Olympic Trials qualifiers at the Florida Relays
Along with Kouba and Smith, Franklin will also be heading to Oregon this July as a competitor in the 400 meter hurdles, where she took second this weekend in a time of 56.81. Junior Jade Miller claimed fifth in the same race in a time of 57.63.
“Autumne’s been an elite performer at the international level for a long time now, and takes [the sport] very seriously,” Kouba said. “This is our last season in a Harvard jersey, and we both really appreciate how special that is.”
But the Olympic Trial qualifying times did not stop there. Thomas, who last weekend ran the 200 meters in an Olympic Trial-qualifying 23.18 seconds, bested that time by nearly half a second in winning this weekend’s race in a nation-best 22.75 seconds.
Moreover, Thomas also qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 100 meter dash by finishing the race in 11.30 seconds—yet another Ivy record, and the fourth-best time in the nation this year.
“The most exciting part is that you know [Gabby’s] got a lot more to give,” Kouba said. “She’s just a freshman…. I can’t wait to see what’ll happen when she gets settled in here and what the next couple years will bring.”
On the men’s side, sophomore Gabe Montague set a personal record in the 1500 meter, running a 3:48.23 on his way to a 22nd-place finish.
“My goal this season is get to the regional qualifying time, which every year is around 3:45 seconds,” Montague said. “I’m happy about the steps I took the last few meets, and I hope I can keep it going to get there.”
Freshman Myles Marshall also had a successful meet, scoring fifth in the 800 meter run with a personal-best time of 1:48.20.
“We’re really excited about Myles,” Montague said. “He broke his personal record this weekend in the 800, but we think he can go even faster—perhaps even become the first of the men to qualify for the Olympic Trials.”
If so, perhaps there he’ll see Kouba—this time, though, not as a volunteer but as one of the athletes she used to follow around.
“It’s unbelievable. [Qualifying has been] a lifelong dream of mine,” Kouba said. “We got a lot more season between now and [the trials], so for now I’m just kind of focused on the weeks ahead and getting to the Ivy Championships. I’m going to take it one step at a time.”
—Staff writer Phillip Yu can be reached at email@example.com.
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