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Women's Track and Field Earns Fifth Ivy Heps Title; Men Finish Sixth

Junior distance runner Elianna Shwayder, seen in action at the 2015 rendition of the HYP meet, was among the runners that scored points for the Crimson.

In recent years, showing up in colors other than the crimson and white to compete in the Ivy Indoor Heptagonal Championships all but guaranteed a loss.

Starting in 2013, the Harvard women’s track and field team had claimed the last four league crowns. This weekend, adding to an era of dominance that precedes even the most senior members of the squad, the Crimson traveled to the NYC Armory in New York and handedly brought home a fifth consecutive crown.

While the women’s team dashed the next closest competitor, Penn, by 19.67 points to claim first place, the men placed sixth, falling one spot from their 2016 finish of fifth.

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Headlining the Crimson was ever-consistent sprinter Gabby Thomas. In what is now a characteristic performance, the sophomore broke two Ancient Eight records. The first came in preliminaries for the 60-meter dash, when Thomas finished 7.29 seconds. In finals, the sprinter neared that record again with a race of 7.31 seconds to claim her second consecutive gold in the event.

“It means a lot to me this season because I am really excited to see what I can do this year,” Thomas said. “Last year, I had no idea what I was capable of and kind of surprised myself with each success. Now I have set goals for myself, and I know what I want to accomplish. So it's a great feeling to see myself headed in the right direction.”

After remarking only four weeks ago that she hoped to break the 23-second mark in the 200-meter run, Thomas did just that. Completing the race in 22.88 seconds, a full second ahead of the rest of her competition, Thomas claimed her second Ivy League record of the day, second gold medal, and an indoor track school record just for good measure.

The sophomore wasn’t done. In the 4x400-meter run, Harvard claimed its second consecutive gold in the event. Thomas, in collaboration with freshman Zoe Hughes, senior Jade Miller, and freshman Karina Joiner dominated the competition, finishing four seconds ahead of the closest opponent for 3:42.02 race.

Thomas wasn’t the only girl to do well on the track, either, as freshmen grabbed a few medals.

In the 60-meter hurdles, rookies Livia Gauntlett and Karina Joiner placed three-four to grab points for the team. Freshman Judy Pendergast got her first taste of Ivy victory with a hard-fought gold in the 5,000-meter run. Pendergast beat off Columbia senior Natalie Tanner, who finished 1.54 seconds behind the rookie, and claimed the Crimson’s first indoor championship in the event since 2006. Teammate and junior Elianna Shwayder placed sixth in the competition, nabbing a point for the team.

Sophomore Ngozi Musa also posted her best time of the year to earn silver in the 60-meter dash at 7.45 seconds. Senior Jade Miller also posted a personal best over 400 meters to ascend to the second spot on the podium.

The field portion of the team left almost as decorated as the sprinters. Captain Reagan Nizdil set a season best in the high jump competition to earn fourth. Meanwhile, freshman Simi Fajemisin fell just 0.03 meters short of a Heps title with a 12.96 leap. While she didn’t quite get the gold, the freshman broke a 16-year school record.

Not to be outdone, the Olympian and senior Nikki Okwelogu maintained her iron-clad monopoly on the shot put event as she claimed her fourth consecutive gold medal in the event. Only the second student-athlete in Ancient Eight history to achieve that sort of dominance—and the first from Harvard—Okwelogu did so in impressive fashion. She out-threw the field by almost two meters.

“Stepping into the ring on the day of Heps is an opportunity to help my team and help contribute to a legacy,” Okwelogu said. “I'm happy to be able to earn those 10 points each Heps for my team, and getting it four years in a row is just icing on the cake.”

While the men didn’t win gold as a team, they hosted their own group of stand out performances.

Leading the group was captain Efe Uwaifo, who claimed his third straight Heps gold in triple jump. Sophomore Myles Marshall of the 800-meter race also took to the top of the podium with a title-winning run. Marshall finished in 1:48.98, earning himself the third-fastest time in school history. Not a bad day considering he holds the other two records as well.

For junior Jay Hebert, in the game of seconds, it was a day of seconds. Claiming the silver medal in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.02, the race represented his second-best ever, as well as the second best in school history.

Other highlights for the men’s team included a fifth-place finish by junior James Heckendorn in the 400-meter dash, a fourth-place finish by senior Julian Nunally in shot put, and a bronze in the 4x400 with freshman Jacob McLennan, Heckendorn, junior Matthew Hurst, and junior Alexander Moore. The quartet finished 0.69 seconds behind the gold medalists.


—Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at cade.palmer@thecrimson.com.

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