This past weekend, the Harvard track and field team traveled to New Haven, Conn. to compete in the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championships for the first time since 2019. With ten individual titles, the men and women both finished second overall, marking a strong end to the team’s season.
Following an indoor Heps win for the Harvard women and a second place finish for the men this past winter, both teams put up 136 points in the outdoor meet. For the men, the result represented the best place and point total since 1983, when they last won the outdoor Heps meet. The women’s strong effort left them just one point shy of Penn, which scored 137 points behind dominant 200m, 400m, and 800m performances.
On the first day of the meet, the weather was a factor; at 55 degrees and rainy, the conditions of the outdoor meet were atypically cool for the time of the year. The rain had stopped by the second day of the competition, but the temperature remained below 60 degrees.
“The weather definitely wasn’t ideal going into the meet, but we tried to completely ignore that and focus on the aspects we could control,” noted junior co-captain Max Serrano-Wu on the weather. “We always try to be the best versions of ourselves on meet day, and I think the boys did exactly that. We’ve been dealing with this all year in practice and competitions, so what was important for us was to stay focused and locked in.”
The Crimson also adjusted by dressing in sweats during downtime to maintain warm muscles. This adjustment helped ensure athletes were ready when their races began. Nevertheless, weather does not discriminate, and every team had to push through despite the conditions.
“The weather was a huge bummer, but we do our best not to let it change the way we perform. We just have to prepare differently so if that means bringing extra sweats or starting the warm up a little bit early so be it,” commented senior co-captain Jada Jones. “Especially when we remember that the elements are rough for everyone.”
On the first day of the championships, Harvard captured four individual titles and set one school record. Leading the charge for the Crimson in the field was first-year Kenneth Ikeji, who broke his own school record in the hammer throw with a distance of 69.01m, nearly 10m clear of second place. Fellow first-year Izzy Goudros took the long jump with a personal best of 6.16m, just short of Harvard all-time record-holder Olympian Gabby Thomas ‘19. In addition, junior Kyle Murphy placed second in the long jump for the men, with a team season-best of 7.44m, just four centimeters short of first place.
In the distance events, Harvard continued its dominance. Sophomore standout Acer Iverson and junior Iz Sagar won the 10k for the men and women, respectively. Iverson was neck-and-neck with teammate Matthew Pereira over the last three kilometers of the event, with Pereira finishing in second. Iverson crossed the line with a time of 29:16.31 and his teammate followed closely in 29:17.20. Sagar and junior Eloise Freitag broke off into the leading pack early in the event, with Sagar out-kicking a runner from Columbia to capture first with a time of 34:43.52. Freitag ended up in third, finishing in 34:57.42.
On the second day of the championships, Harvard captured six more individual titles. Senior Sam Welsh set a school and Ivy League record in the discus with a throw of 63.26m, which earned him Most Outstanding Men’s Field Performer of the event. In other field events, freshman Daniel Falode won the men’s triple jump with a personal-best distance of 15.83m. The Crimson also picked up a pair of second-place finishes in the shot put, with first-years Sarah Omoregie and Alexander Kolesnikoff’s throws of 14.89m and 18.37m, respectively. Finally, junior John Minicus set a personal best in the decathlon, placing in third with 6,552 points.
In the long-distance events, Iverson continued his streak of strong performances, winning the 5k with a time of 13:56.53. Sophomore Maia Ramsden took the individual title in the women’s 1500m4:23.04, pulling away in the final stretch to cross the line in 4:23.04. Senior Anna Juul and first-year Marianne Mihas captured third and fourth in the 1500m, respectively. In addition, freshman Isabelle Goldstein had a standout performance in the 3000m steeplechase, placing second.
In the short-distance events, Jones recorded her first outdoor individual title, winning the 100m hurdles with a time of 13.33 seconds. First-year Eden Finkelstein won the women’s 100m dash in 10.67 seconds, 0.24 seconds ahead of second place. Despite finishing in third, sophomore Lance Ward broke a 20-year-old school record in the 100m, with his 10.32 edging out Olympian Christopher Lambert ‘03 by 0.04 seconds. First-year Victoria Bossong placed second in the women’s 400m, 0.52 seconds out of first place.
Finally, all of the Crimson relay teams finished in second in their events. In the women’s 4x100m, Bossong, sophomore Egbe Ndip-Agbor, Jones, and Finkelstein recorded a season-best 45.30 seconds. For the men, senior DeMarkes Stradford, Ward, freshman Oliver Murko, and junior Marcus Miller finished 0.01 seconds ahead of third place with a time of 40.70 seconds. In the women’s 4x400m, Ndip-Agbor, Jones, sophomore Jada Johnson, and Bossong finished 0.31 seconds ahead of third place, and the four-man team of Ward, sophomore Greg Lapit, Murko, and sophomore Peter Diebold crossed the line with a season-best of 3:09.61.
The strong performances by both teams at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championships represented a culmination of a season of growth and development for the program. From the NCAA bid for the program at Cross Country Nationals to the Heps win for the women in the indoor track, the program has become not only a force in the Ivy League, but also a force in the broader collegiate landscape.
“I’m really happy and proud of our performances this year. We finished second and scored the most points ever by a Harvard team at both the indoor Heps and outdoor Heps, besting previous Harvard teams which had won the championship. We’ve been on an upward trajectory since my freshman year and we want to keep this momentum going into next season,” Serrano-Wu noted. “I’m especially proud of our seniors who have been instrumental in turning our team around and promoting positive team culture throughout their time with Harvard Track and Field.”
Following Heps, individual athletes will have the opportunity to compete at NCAA nationals, starting on May 26th.
–Staff writer William Connaughton can be reached at email@example.com.