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18 Harvard Athletes Compete in Record-Breaking NCAA Outdoor Championships

Maia T. B. Ramsden '24 — pictured in 2023 — won the 1,500m title for the second year in a row at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last week.
Maia T. B. Ramsden '24 — pictured in 2023 — won the 1,500m title for the second year in a row at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last week. By Courtesy of the Ivy League
By Jo B. Lemann and Tyler J.H. Ory, Crimson Staff Writers

Maia T. B. Ramsden ’24 won the 1,500m title for the second year in a row at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last week, becoming the first Harvard athlete to win three NCAA national championships.

But Harvard’s track and field squad managed to make University history before their plane even touched down in Eugene, Oregon for the national championships as the team sent a record 18 athletes to represent the Crimson at the competition.

A number of the athletes also remained in Eugene following the conclusion of the national championship to participate in the USA Track and Field Under 20 Championships as well as the Olympic Trials, which will be held later this month.

Ramsden’s defense of her 1,500 title was the highlight of the national championships for Harvard, which failed to replicate its standout team performances from 2023.

The men’s team finished the meet in 16th place in the team standings, while the women’s team ended in 23rd — a dip from last year when the men’s and women’s teams finished 11th and ninth, respectively.

Kenneth C. Ikeji ’25, who won the Indoor NCAA National Championship in the weight throw in March, placed second in the hammer throw.

K. Graham Blanks ’25, the 2023 NCAA Cross Country National Champion in the men’s 10k, barely missed out on a podium finish in the men’s 5k, ending the race in fifth.

Blanks said the increased number of Harvard athletes at the meet will bring “more legitimacy to our program.”

“You show up to these meets, and there’s lots of big Power 5 schools that also qualify 20 people,” Blanks said. “So it feels good to roll up as a full, complete team.”

Chloe M. Fair ’24-25, who placed 11th in the 400m Hurdles, said she was excited to have more teammates to cheer her on this year.

“Seventeen athletes were at the 200 yelling for me, and I could hear them during my race,” Fair said. “It just makes you run a lot faster when you know you have people cheering for you.”

The meet saw strong performances from several freshmen — a positive sign for the future of Harvard’s track and field program.

Tito Alofe ’27, who placed fourth in the high jump, and Sophia Gorriaran ’27, who finished ninth in the 800m, both stayed in Eugene to compete in the USA Track and Field Under 20 Championships, and the Olympic Trials.

Alofe came into the meet with the goal of jumping 2.23m, a school record. While he fell short — achieving a height of 2.20m instead — Alofe said he still felt the result was “redemption” for his ninth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships where he narrowly missed out on First-Team honors.

“It gives me some type of confidence that I’ll be able to be a pretty decent team contributor for the rest of my time here,” Alofe said.

Still, Alofe said that he was happy to hold his own against older and more experienced competitors and that he hopes to win a national title while representing Harvard.

Freshman discus thrower Milina Wepiwé ’27 also had a strong performance at the meet with a personal record throw of 59.23m that secured her seventh place.

Wepiwé, who is from Germany, spoke about adjusting to increased training and academic schedule while being far from home, but said that overall she was “really lucky to be able to deal with that quite well.”

“Being able to go back home with such a good last meet definitely was really good for my confidence,” Wepiwé said.

Many of the athletes at last week’s meet are also looking to qualify for the Olympics. Alofe, Blanks, Victoria Bossong ’25, Fair, Gorriaran, and Aaron Shirley ’24 are all set to appear in Eugene again starting June 21.

Ramsden, a New Zealand native, missed the Olympic entry standard of 4:02.50 by a few seconds, running a 4:06.62 instead. Ramsden could still qualify for the Olympic games, but she will need to be selected by a New Zealand nominating panel rather than participating in a trial competition.

Blanks, who is coming off of an injury this winter, said that while he feels “100 percent” going into Olympic Trials, he might be disadvantaged by the training he missed this year.

Despite the setback, Blanks said he was still hopeful for the event.

“I do think to a certain extent, there’s just like, a certain threshold of fitness and experience you need to hit, and then after that, it’s just kind of like, ‘Who’s the best on that day?’” Blanks said.

Fair, who is also set to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials, spoke about the challenge of preparing for a meet on such a huge stage, but said that she was dealing with the pressure by journaling.

Still, she said the mental game at the collegiate level has improved as Harvard continues to prove itself as a program from past years when Fair said other athletes didn’t know that Harvard was a Division One athletics program.

“I think if you asked me last year, I totally would have felt like an underdog, I felt like I didn’t belong,” Fair said.

“But no, I think we belong there.”

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at jo.lemann@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

—Staff writer Tyler J.H. Ory can be reached at tyler.ory@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @tyler_ory.

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