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Okwelogu Leads Track and Field at Penn Relays

Rising senior Nikki Okwelogu will represent Nigeria in the shot put at the 2016 Olympics.
Rising senior Nikki Okwelogu will represent Nigeria in the shot put at the 2016 Olympics. By Courtesy of Brian Panoff
By Phillip Yu, Crimson Staff Writer

While most of the squad rested in preparation for the outdoor Ivy League championships next weekend, the Harvard track and field team sent a small delegation of athletes to the Penn Relays and Stonehill Skyhawk Invitational this past weekend. The team came home with a bevy of first-place finishes.

“Because we had the Ivy League championships next weekend... we had a small contingent competing,” coach Jason Saretsky said. “Those who competed I thought did really well, and we had some outstanding performances.”


The Crimson women’s performance at the Penn Relays was highlighted by junior indoor All-American Nikki Okwelogu, who claimed first in the women’s shot put with a throw of 56’3.75”.

Notably, Okwelogu defeated Tennessee All-American Cassie Wertman, who claimed second place—above Okwelogu’s bronze-medal finish—at the indoor NCAA championships in March.

“Nikki’s a tremendous competitor,” coach Jason Saretsky said. “It was great to see her matched up against…one of the few people that beat her in the indoor nationals back in March, and for her to come out on top was a great victory.”

Sophomore Fiona Davis also performed well in the 10K—her first time running the race—placing 18th with a time of 37:01.84.

“[Davis] made her debut in the 10K and ran an outstanding time,” Saretsky said. “25 laps is a long way to go, and she did really well.”

On the men’s side, the weekend was highlighted by a strong performance from freshman Kieran Tuntivate, who shaved nearly 30 seconds off his personal best on the way to a 22nd place finish.

The men also sent freshman Collin Price and sophomore Tyler Spear to run the 10K, where Price and Spear ran neck-and-neck to respectively score 48th and 49th place finishes.


The women’s squad also sent two athletes, sophomore Sophia Iosue and freshman Miranda Sadler, to the Stonehill Invite. There, Sadler claimed second place in the 800-meter dash with a personal best of 2:13.25. Iosue threw for 111’2” in the discus on her way to a tie for fifth-place.

The Crimson trio of senior Malik Epps, junior Thomas Negron, and freshman Liam Hackett scored a one-two-three finish in the 800-meter dash. All three times were personal bests.

“It felt great to be able to go out there, even without that much competition, and show that I can do a lot by myself,” Epps said. “I’d been hurt for a long time, including my entire junior year, so if anything it was kind of a relief.”

Harvard also landed gold medals in the 100-meter dash and men’s hammer, courtesy of sophomore Tomoya Hasegawa and junior Josh Whitener.

In the 100-meter, Hasegawa set a new personal record of 11.26 seconds, just ahead of senior David Gawlas, who ran a 11.30 on his way to a third place finish.

Elsewhere, freshman Nathan Williams ran a career-best 8:51.44 in the 3000-meter run on his way to a bronze medal. Fellow rookie Mitch Valko came home with a silver medal in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.10 seconds.

Classmate Garrett Rouser landed a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 56.08 seconds, ahead of junior Alex Kirby, who ran a 57.33 on his way to fifth place.

“We had some great performances at the Stonehill as well,” Saretsky said. “I was really impressed—it was great to see those guys get that competitive experience.”

Next weekend, the Crimson men hope to improve on their fifth-place finish at the indoor Ivy League championships in February. Meanwhile, the Crimson women—currently ranked the tenth best team in the nation, the highest ever by an Ivy League team—look to defend their outdoor Ivy League title from last year.

—Staff writer Phillip Yu can be reached at

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