Breaking records left and right, marking new tournament and Ivy League titles in its record book, and sending athletes across the country to take podium places at every meet, Harvard track and field has earned itself the honor of Team of Year — both on paper and in the hearts of its members — who will remember the 2022-23 season as a season like no other.
The Harvard track and field/cross country team has had a historic year, winning four championships over the course of the three seasons. Their most recent win — the Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championship victory — marks the first time in program history that both the Harvard men’s and women’s teams have won the meet. For the men’s team, it marks the first time they’ve won the outdoor Heptagonal championships since 1983 — 40 years ago.
“I feel like we’ve just had an incredible year,” head coach Jason Saretsky reflected. “The team has progressed in so many ways and it’s really wonderful to see all their hard work and dedication paying off.”
“We always try to emphasize enjoying the process,” he continued, “but at the same time it’s nice to be able to have the end result be what you hoped for as well.”
The women’s team set a high standard for their success, beginning in the fall with a victorious season. In late October, the Crimson women raced to first place in the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships with junior Maia Ramsden taking the lead for Harvard in the championships race. Ramsden won the individual title in the women’s 6K, with a time of 20:42.4 seconds. The team ended up scoring 54 points, leading by nine points more than the second place finisher and famed Harvard track and field rival,Princeton.
The men’s team finished in second place in the Ivy League the fall. It was junior Acer Iverson for the men’s team who secured the individual title, running a time of 23:59.3 seconds for the men’s 8K to win first place. Sophomore Graham Blanks was the second place finisher, running 24:04.1 seconds to follow his teammate. Their first and second place finishes marked the first time since 1969 that the Crimson had two male runners take the gold and silver medals at Heptagonals.
Harvard also had seven runners earn All-Ivy Status during the Cross Country Heptagonals. At the conclusion of the meet, assistant head coach Alex Gibby was awarded the Ivy League Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year.
The Ivy League Champions, Ramsden and Iverson were also awarded the All-Ivy Award, which recognizes student-athletes who have contributed majorly to their team, as well as maintained a GPA of 3.0 or more. The men’s and women’s team overall was named All-Academic team by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA).
For Harvard, having a culture that cultivates community is a big proponent of their success.
“There’s a genuine [care] for one another and a feeling that this is a big family,” said Sarestsky about the team’s culture and its relation to their success. “When you have that sense of belonging to something that’s much bigger than just yourself, it allows you to do so much more than you otherwise could.”
In the indoor season, the women’s team continued to dominate. They won the Heptagonal Ivy League Championships with 177 points, a full 25 points more than second-place Princeton. Ramsden was named the women’s Ivy League Most Valuable Track Athlete for her two wins in the women’s mile and 1000 m run. Senior Stephanie Ratcliffe was named women’s Most Valuable Field Athlete for her Ivy League record-setting weight throw performance.
In a heartbreaker, the men’s team came even closer to the championship title during the indoor Heptagonals. By just one point, they narrowly lost with 163 points to Princeton’s 164. Sophomore Kenneth Ikeji was named men’s Most Outstanding Track Performer.
At the conclusion of the championships, 27 Athletes earned All-Ivy Status. Sarestky was also named the Ivy League Women’s Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year. Harvard also sent six athletes — who had all obtained a top sixteen spot in their event — to the indoor NCAAs.
“I think it’s a credit to our student athletes and our coaching staff, for the hard work and dedication they put in,” said Sarestky about the recognition that the program has gotten from both the league, as well as USTFCCA. “We try to really emphasize enjoying the journey, and it’s more about the process. It is really nice to see that extra recognition and to have that recognition coming from those two groups is really rewarding.”
Heading into the outdoor championship season, the team was looking to carry on their legacy of success, and they managed to do just that.
The women’s team completed their triple crown, winning the Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships with 193 points, 33 more than second place Princeton. Ramsden was again recognized as the Women’s Most Outstanding Track Performer for her 1500 m and 5000 m wins.
The men’s team finally came victorious, winning the Outdoor Championships by 66 points. Their win marks their eleventh outdoor title. Ikeji was also recognized as the men’s Most Outstanding Field Performer. The men’s team had also bumped up to 22 in the NCAA top 25 rankings after their Ivy League win.
At the conclusion of the meet, Harvard had 32 athletes named All-Ivy, and Coach Sarestky was recognized as the Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year.
“There’s so many, it’s hard to pinpoint just a few,” said Sarestky about his proudest moments and accomplishments of the team. “Starting on the women’s side, to be able to complete the triple crown is such an amazing achievement.”
“Every Ivy League school is gunning for those championships each and every time, every school is filled with really talented, hardworking student athletes, and they’re all well coached,” he continued. “The end result is on the day. It’s a real testament to our women’s team. We were one point shy of [the championship] last year. This team operated with the idea of trying to be the best version of themselves, each and every day, and trying to get better.”
“On the men’s side, coming so close in cross country — and even closer on the track indoors — to finally sort of breakthrough, and in a record setting way for Harvard was really wonderful,” Sarestky continued. “Forty years is a long stretch, so we’re really happy and proud of our student athletes.” =
The Harvard track and field men’s and women’s team has maintained a number one Northeast Regional Ranking throughout the course of the outdoor season. The team is currently gearing up for its next target: the NCAAs.
“First and foremost, we don’t feel like our season is done,” Sarestky made clear. “Our attention is now squarely on the NCAAs, and we’ve got a large contingent that will be representing Harvard at the NCAA first round, and we’re trying to advance as many athletes as we can to the NCAA final round.”
“It’s something we try to continue to emphasize, being present, and being in the moment,” he said. “I’m fairly sure we’re gonna have a record number of Harvard track and field student-athletes at NCAA first round, so that’s what I’m most excited about and focused on.”
— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.