In May of 1899, the Presidents of Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England formally challenged the Harvard and Yale track teams to a meet. 12 consecutive losses to their American rivals and over a century later, they’re probably wishing they hadn’t.
The roots of the what is called the Transatlantic Series can be traced back to an 1894 competition between the Bulldogs and Oxford and now represents the oldest ongoing international track and field meet in the world, predating even the modern Olympic games.
The biennial meet pits the Crimson and Yale against their counterparts, Oxford and Cambridge, who together form the Achilles Club. Utilizing the British scoring system, the meet allots a point for every event winner and the team with the most points at the end of the 40 event meet takes the title.
Before the meet, the two British teams stayed four days in Cambridge—Mass. that is—before taking to New Haven for four more.
“During their stay it was four days of laughter, culture sharing, and fellowship,” men’s co-captain Julian Nunally said. “I learned a great deal from having them over and it is truly and honor to participate in the world’s ‘oldest continuous track meet.’”
Saturday represented latest installment in the 46 meet series between the schools as the team of Harvard and Yale carried the competition in a 26-16 victory over their competitors from across the pond.
Hosted by the Bulldogs at Dewitt Cuyler field in New Haven, Conn., the combined men and women’s teams of the Crimson won 11 events, with the former winning four and the women seven.
“I think I speak for the whole team when I say that we see all of our meets as opportunities—to push ourselves further, to perform better, to strive for excellence,” said junior pole vaulter Marlee Sabatino. “However, Saturday's competition was unlike the others because the team's focus was sincerely on the spirit of camaraderie amongst four of the greatest academic institutions in the world, celebrating the chance to be a part of one of the oldest international competitions in the world. For me personally, coming together with Yale and competing against the Oxford and Cambridge pole vaulters really meant cheering my heart out for all four teams.”
For the combined Harvard and Yale women’s team, the victory was the 10th consecutive of the series, and 15th overall. Crimson senior Nikki Okwelogu claimed two points on her own as the 2016 Outdoor All-American in shot put carried the event with a toss of 15.63 meters, over two meters further than her closest opponent. Competing also in discus, Okwelogu claimed her second gold of the day with a throw of 49.37 meters, this time over six meters further than the second place finisher. Hammer throw was the only event in which the senior participated in and did not win first place, this time placing third with a 48.47 meter throw.
Sophomore Gabby Thomas also made her presence known at the meet besting both a personal and 15-year school record for the first place finish in long jump. The sophomore jumped 6.10 meters to take the gold medal and earn a point for the Americans.
Another personal best for came this weekend from Sabatino as she carried the pole vault point for Harvard and the Bulldogs. The Hillsborough, N.J., native vaulted 3.85 meters to achieve her best mark for the outdoor season.
“I was happy with the progress that I felt in my vault, but I know there are higher bars to clear this season,” Sabatino said. “So I'll keep believing in the process and training hard, just like my teammates do.”
The women’s runners won the rest of the team’s points. Sophomore Ngozi Musa was the first to strike, taking the gold in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.79 seconds. In the hurdle variant of the race, freshman Karina Joiner claimed her first collegiate gold in the event finishing in 14.19 seconds.
The final point of the day came at the hands of veteran Jade Miller. The senior beat her closest competitor, Crimson freshman Zoe Hughes, by nearly a second finishing in 24.93 seconds. Hughes took silver with a 25.83 mark.
On the men’s side of the competition, half of the group’s points came from Nunally as the combination of the Harvard and Yale men won their half of the meet for the 26th time in 28 meetings. However, this might be in part attributed to Achilles Club’s lack of administrative investment.
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