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Women's Track and Field Looks to Sprint to an Indoor Track Success

One year ago, the women’s track and field team was a very young team. In spite of that, the group captured the elusive Ivy League Triple Crown—a title denoting an Ancient Eight title in cross country and both indoor and outdoor track and field. It was the first time in program history and the second time in division history that the feat had been achieved. This year, the women’s track and field team is still a young team.

A sprinting squad that was dominated by freshmen and sophomores in 2017 is now managed by most of those same athletes, only with a year more of experience. At the helm of that group is junior sprinter Gabby Thomas. One of the newly elected captains, Thomas has been a menace in the Ivy League for the past two seasons.

At the 2017 indoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, the indoor first team All-American took three gold medals. In the proceeding outdoor Heptagonal Championships, Thomas won five gold medals, one for every single event she competed in. She was unsurprisingly the unanimous pick for the Most Outstanding Performer of the Ivy League Heps and later received first team All-American honors for the outdoor track season as well.

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As a sophomore, the Florence, Mass., performed at the national stage for both seasons. At indoors she placed eighth in the nation for the indoor 200-meter dash, and third for the second year in a row in the outdoor variant.

Thomas doesn’t seem to be losing steam at all. In her first meet of the season on December 2, she broke the school record and the facility record for an event she didn’t even compete in at Heps, the 300-meter dash. The 37.47 finish earned the Florence Flash one of her two golds, with the second coming in the 60-meter dash.

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Last season, a senior, Jade Miller, and two freshmen, Maya Miklos and Karina Joiner raced alongside Thomas in the gold medal outdoor 4x400-meter. The first years, now sophomores, return to the track with senior level experience, having won at the Ivy League’s largest stage.

And their experience shows. In last week’s Boston University meet, Miklos claimed gold in the 600-meter run and Joiner set a personal record in her 60-meter hurdle second place finish. The pair teamed up with classmate Micah Meekins and freshman Claire Hotchkin to then take bronze in the 4x400-meter relay. Though young, the sprinters for the women’s team are already in the front end of the competition.

A veteran herself, co-captain Marlena Sabatino is well placed to continue her role as the leader of the women in the field. In pole vault, the senior took third at indoors and fourth at outdoors during the 2017 season. Last week, she was second among college athletes. The co-captain’s performance will be supplemented this season by two sophomores, Simi Fajemisin and Zoe Hughes. Both from the U.K., the two specialize in jumps and the heptathlon, respectively. Fajemisin took first in the triple jump and second in long jump at outdoors last season while Hughes was the division champ in the heptathlon.

However, the field is not without holes. The departure of Nikki Okwelogu ‘17 is significant among the group. Throughout her four years donning Crimson, the graduate won every single indoor and outdoor Heps competition in the shot put event. It may just be freshman Emily Johns that fills this hole. Last weekend, the first year placed 12th in shot put, the highest of any Harvard affiliated thrower.

“The field event groups are definitely progressing nicely into the indoor season,” Johns said.
“Moving forward, I hope to become more technically proficient in the throws. For the indoor season, I hope to qualify and potentially place at Heps.”

This isn’t the only wound to the women. The cross country team is nursing the loss of two of its top three runners from its Ivy League Champion squad. Senior and Ivy League champ, Courtney Smith transferred to Stanford while sophomore Judy Pendergast left for Oregon. Division champs last year, the women’s cross country team placed eighth in the fall rendition of the Heptagonal Championship meet.

However, two of the team’s returning members raced over the summer for their respective nations’ junior national teams over the summer. Sophomores Eliza Rego and Lisa Tertsch ran for the USA and Germany, respectively, and are likely to be consistent producers for the Crimson.

For the men, the hope is to return to Ivy League dominance. Placing fourth and sixth in the Ancient Eight divisional meets, the group brings back several key performers. Two of which are the newly elected captains.

Junior co-captain Myles Marshall swept the Ivy League last season in the 800-meter run, taking gold in both the indoor and outdoor divisional meets. Alongside him is co-captain Jay Hebert. Last season, the senior recorded the second-fastest time in program history in the 60-meter hurdles in addition to claiming silver in the event at indoors.

The team did well at the most recent meet as well, putting six of its members in the top 10 list for the 300-meter. Hebert won the 60-meter hurdles while sophomore Donagh Mahon grabbed third in high jump with a personal best and junior Ian West took second in pole value among collegiate athletes.

For both teams, the freshman class is a strong group. The 28 new faces have already made an impact on the cross country teams and in the group’s first meet. Freshman Abbe Goldstein was the top finisher for the Harvard women at the Cross Country Heps as Hugo Milner was the top finishing freshman overall in the men’s division at the meet.

At the Boston University meet last weekend, two freshmen—Jovahn Williamson in the 300-meter dash and Ryan Thrush in the 1000-meter run—claimed gold.

“From what I’ve seen, it looks like we have some very talented athletes in the freshman class, many of whom are capable of competing with the upperclassman,” Thrush said. “It should be a good season, everyone’s been working hard and we’re all excited to compete.”

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