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Harvard track and field made program history this past weekend during the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at the University of Pennsylvania. For the first time in history, both the men’s and women’s teams won the Ivy League title. The historic win marks the men’s team’s eleventh title, and first since 1983. The women’s team claimed their sixth outdoor championship title, along with the honor of triple-crowning.
On day one of Heptagonals, the Crimson already set up a path for success with four athletes earning Ivy League titles.
“The team knew what we wanted to do, and we knew how we had to do it. We had to go into the meet prepared and looking for points in every event,” sophomore Graham Blanks reflected. “I think it ended up pretty well. Everyone ended up performing to their best, and we had a really good day.”
Senior Stephanie Ratcliffe threw 67.93 m in the women’s hammer throw to bring home the first gold medal for Harvard and senior Cammy Garabian took bronze with a throw of 60.29m. In the women’s pole vault, sophomore Anastasia Retsa took second place with a jump of 3.93 m.
Sophomore Kenneth Ikeji threw 74.07 m, a whole 13 meters ahead of second place to win the men’s hammer throw. In the men’s javelin throw, sophomore Jeremiah Swett threw 61.67 m to win first place, with teammate senior John Minicus throwing 60.18 m to win second place.
In the men’s 10,000 m run, Blanks ran a time of 29:46.69 seconds to earn first place, with junior Acer Iverson coming in second with a time of 29:54.56 seconds. Their podium finishes earned the team 16 points. Sophomore Ella Gilson also got on the podium for the women’s 10,000 m run, taking second place with a time of 34:22.07 seconds.
“Acer and I wanted to score as many points as possible for the team, so just trying to finish in that top two spots, combining for as many points as we could,” Blanks said. “In terms of the racing, it’s a little bit different when you get to these championship races — a little more strategic. So, Acer and I just, per Coach Gibby’s plans, sat in the back. When the race started to wind up and there were only a few laps left, then we would move up and try to put in some fast pace surges.”
Going into day two, the men’s team led the rest of the competition with 48 points. On the women’s side, they sat in second place to Princeton with 36 points.
Starting off on the field, in the men’s triple jump, sophomore Daniel Falode jumped 15.41 meters to take first place in the event. Sophomore Chet Ellis got on the podium for Harvard in the men’s high jump, earning bronze with a mark of 2.08 meters. In the men’s decathlon, Minicus, the school record holder for the event, finished in third place, scoring 6853 points. In the women’s heptathlon, sophomore Jada Johnson earned first place with a score of 5153 points, with first-year Fabiola Belibi finishing close behind in second place with a score of 4729 points.
The throwers dominated for the Crimson. Senior Alexander Kolesnikoff won the men’s shot put with a throw of 19.92 meters, two meters farther than the second-place finisher. In the same event for the women’s, junior Sarah Omoregie claimed first place as well, throwing 17.41 meters, two meters farther than the first-place finisher. Junior Estel Valeanu also got on the podium in third place, throwing 15.28 meters.
On the track, Harvard’s sprinters continued racking up points.
In the women’s 4x100m relay, the team earned second place with a time of 45.35 seconds. In the men’s 4x100m relay, the team of first-years Cam Henry and Jonas Clarke and juniors Lance Ward and Collin Fullen earned first place in a time of 40.35 seconds, a mere 0.02 seconds ahead of Penn. Clarke secured their gold medal with a crucial lean at the finish line.
In the women’s 100 m hurdles, first-year Josefina Biernacki ran a time of 13.73 seconds to take second place as the only Crimson athlete in the event. In the men’s 110 m hurdles, senior Aaron Shirley and sophomore Samuel Bennett both got on the podium, earning second place with a time of 14.10 seconds and third place with a time of 14.11 seconds, respectively.
In the women’s 100 m, senior Tina Martin ran a time of 11.61 seconds to earn second place in the event. For the men’s 100 m, it was Ward who got on the podium for the Crimson, running a time of 10.47 seconds to earn second place.
In the women’s 400 m hurdles, sophomore Chloe Fair topped the podium with a time of 57.75 seconds. Harvard swept the men’s 400m hurdles, with Shirley winning first place in 50.33 seconds, and first-year Ondrej Vesely and sophomore Peter Fischer earning second and third with times of 50.87 and 52.36 seconds, respectively.
Sophomore Victoria Bossong ran a time of 52.55 seconds to earn first place in the women’s 400 m. In the women’s 200 m, Martin returned to get on the podium in first place with a time of 23.295 seconds, with first-year Adaji Osaro-Igwe following closely behind in second place, running 23.297 seconds. In the men’s 200 m, Ward returned yet again to the track to earn third place, running 20.72 seconds.
The Harvard distance runners kept up with the sprinters, continuing their winning streak.
In the women’s 3000 m steeplechase, first-year Kristin Otervik got on the podium in third place, running 10:25.25 seconds. In the same event for the men’s, sophomore Reed Pryor ran 8:51.72 seconds to earn second place.
In the 1500 m final run, it was sophomore Maia Ramsden, the school record holder for the event, who claimed first place with a time of 4:12.54 seconds. In the men's 1500 m run, first-year Vivien Henz, who just previously set the men’s school record, ran 3:44.16 seconds to earn second place.
“In the 1500, we wanted it to be fast,” said Ramsden about the coach’s advice going into her race. “I think that’s a lot different than last year, where I was just going to race with the field, sit on the leader, and kind of make it fast if we have to. This year we kind of had some goals for what the first half of the race should look like, and that was to go out pretty hard. I ended up going out a little too hard, but it worked out in the end.”
In the 800 m, junior Peter Diebold was the sole Crimson athlete in the event for men and women, and he emerged with a third-place finish in a time of 1:50.55 seconds.
In the women’s 5000 m run, Ramsden returned to the track again to claim her second Ivy League title of the meet, winning the event in a time of 16:19.18 seconds, a near four seconds quicker than the second-place finisher. In the men’s 5000 m, both Blanks and Iverson repeated their first and second-place finishes, respectively. Blanks ran a time of 13:56.44 seconds, while Iverson followed shortly behind with a time of 13:59.79 seconds.
In the last event of the day, both the men’s and women’s teams were in a solid position to win the trophy. The women’s 4x400m relay team of Bossong, first-year Jackie Okereke, Martin, and Fair earned second place in 3:37.97 seconds, falling behind Princeton by just a sixth of a second. In the men’s 4x400m relay race, the team of Shirley, junior Gregory Lapit, and sophomores Jonathan Gamarra and Steffan Jones ran a time of 3:08.31 seconds to earn third place.
At the conclusion of the second day, both teams were crowned the Ivy League champions. The men’s team won the meet with a score of 203 points, a full 66 points ahead of the indoor champions — the Princeton Tigers. Their win marks the eleventh Outdoor Championship win for the Crimson men’s program and the first victory in 40 years.
The Harvard women’s team won the championship with 193 points, 33 more than runner-up Princeton. Their victory completes the women’s track and cross country team’s triple crown this season, as they’ve also won the cross country Heptagonals in the fall and the Indoor Heptagonal Championships in the winter.
“It feels great,” said Blanks about being a part of the historic win. “A cool part about our track program is it’s definitely a combined program, which isn’t normally the way it works in a lot of schools, but the men and women are one unit.”
“A lot of us train together, we all spend time with each other, so it was great to share that accomplishment with the women’s team, and pick up a trophy for the men’s team,” he continued. “The women’s team has been making it look easy for the past few years, so it was nice to finally share that.”
“It was so good,” added Ramsden about the team’s reaction to winning. “It was the most fun hour when they were announcing the winners. Everybody was spraying water everywhere, we were dumping water on our coaches. I think for the men to do it as well, that was huge for them. So this year it was really intense joy, it was great.”
At the conclusion of the meet, a number of individual athletes were also recognized for their performances.
Ramsden was named the Women’s Outstanding Track Performer for the championship meet for her two gold medals in the 1500 m run and 5000 m run. Ikeji was named the Men’s Most Outstanding Field Performer for his throws.
“Just super grateful,” said Ramsden about winning her award. “I’m really grateful that I got the opportunity to run [both races] and that I had teammates in both races. It’s a really nice recognition I think. I was really happy to receive that, it was good.”
The team also had 32 athletes named All-Ivy Status.
“We had a lot of people step up, to the point where we didn’t need anyone else to step up,” said Blanks about the team’s most exciting performances. “The 4x100 was particularly exciting with Jonas Clarke, a freshman, coming in hot at the end from behind to get the win just barely over some good teams. It was probably just our best all-around team performance we’ve had at least since I’ve been here.”
In addition, Head Coach Jason Saretsky was unanimously selected as the Ivy League men’s and women’s coach of the year.
“Coach Saretsky I’m sure was just elated,” said Blanks about the coach’s reaction to winning. “It’s a trophy that’s evaded our team for forty years now, so I think Saretsky was pretty excited about the circumstance, especially considering the margin that both teams won by. It was a really big weekend for the team and hopefully a turning point in the program for dominance to come.”
Up next for the Crimson, athletes will compete this weekend at the New England Championships and ICAC/ECAC championships to try and earn a spot in the NCAA East Preliminary rounds.
“I think the first step is actually happening soon, this weekend we’re trying to get more people to qualify,” said Ramsden about goals the team has going forward into the postseason. “A couple of teammates and I are going down to help pace, and race and get in the zone with everybody. I think it’s a reflection of our program, the more qualifiers we can have at NCAA Regionals. So definitely trying to help and support and motivate as many people as we can this first weekend.”
— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at email@example.com.
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