They say everything is bigger in Texas, and this week’s meet proved no different.
A high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit welcomed the Harvard track and field team deep into the heart of Texas this weekend as the teams competed against the nation’s top talent in the state’s capital, hosted by the University of Texas. The rest of the team dispersed across the nation with other athletes traveling to North Carolina and Northern Massachusetts.
Team records fell left and right under the Austin sun over the course of the weekend with the men’s 4x400-meter relay team leading off and setting a new program record, twice, by placing fifth in the qualifying race and then sixth overall.
“The Texas Relays probably has the highest level of competition we will see all year,” senior Matt Hurst said. “It was really cool to be able to go into that type of environment and run fast against some of these big schools. I think we all just wanted to go down there and see how fast we could run, but to be able to break the school record while doing so just made it that much for exciting.”
At these highly competitive 91st Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, the quartet—consisting of freshman Rodney Agyare-May, junior co-captain Myles Marshall, freshman Jovahn Williamson, and Hurst—broke the program record in the fourth heat of their event. Hitting the 3:09.38 time in the first race additionally propelled the group on to the finals.
“We knew we could run faster,” Agyare-May said. “It wasn’t the best race actually. We knew there was definitely still something left in the tank.”
In lane three, the group replicated the feat on Saturday earning sixth place in 3:08.57.
“We knew we had a good chance of running a fast time going in,” Agyare-May said. “We also knew it was going to be warm and that it was going to be a lot of competition because it was the Texas Meet and teams in Texas are generally pretty good. We had a pretty good idea of what we were capable of doing.”
In the 200-meter dash, junior co-captain Gabby Thomas did about as well as expected. “As well as expected” meaning she placed first overall (by nearly a second), broke her own program record, and clocked the sixth fastest NCAA all-conditions mark ever in the event after crossing the finish line in 22.13 seconds.
The Florence Flash hadn’t finished. The wind at her back, the junior clocked another program record in the 100-meter equivalent at 11.14. In the event’s final, Thomas did it again, hitting a 11.04 mark in the wind-aided third place finish.
Two sophomores claimed the 100-meter hurdles for the teams. Both setting top-10 program times in their efforts, classmates Livia Gauntlett and Karina Joiner finished 26th and 28th with times of 13.85 and 13.88 seconds, respectively.
Joiner then found a personal best in the 400-meter hurdles, claiming her top time in 59.72 seconds. She placed fifth on the all-time program list with that mark.
Also on the women’s half of the meet, junior Kathryn Gillespie found the leaderboard in the 1500-meter run among competition including the University of Texas, Georgia and Texas Christian University. Her 4:29.71 second time earned her seventh.
Marshall, prior to running the record breaking 4x400, broke the top six of the 800-meter runners on Thursday. His 1:50.85 second run was enough for sixth, but fourth among the collegiate athletes.
In the field, the Crimson struck silver twice. Sophomore triple jumper, Simi Fajemisin landed a new program record and placed first among college athletes in her event. Fajemisin flew 13.07 meters to earn her spot at the second step on the podium.
Freshman pole vaulter Erick Duffy found similar success in pole vault. Jumping on Thursday, the rookie hit the second-best mark in program history by clearing a 5.15-meter bar. The effort earned the first-year a silver medal, a feat he would repeat the following day at the Bobcat Invitation hosted by Texas State.
“Competing at two different meets in two days was new for me, but when my coach asked me if I wanted to vault again, I couldn’t turn it down,” Duffy said. “I am starting to become consistent again after having a less-than-ideal indoor season. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season. Big things are coming,both for me personally and our entire program.”
A squad of distance runners represented Harvard at the Raleigh Relays, hosted by NC State. In the day of running, sophomore Will Battershill in his first spring outdoor appearance earned himself a sixth place finish in the 3000-meter steeplechase. The second-year found the finish line 8:59.44 after the sound of the gun.
Freshmen led the day in the 5000-meter finals with classmates Abbe Goldstein and Hugo Milner landing 24th and 25th respectively. The two efforts were the best of the day for the runners from Cambridge.
On Saturday, athletes trekked north to the UMass-Lowell Invitational and left with official golds. Among the runners, senior Fiona Davis grabbed the gold among a field of 28 in the 3000-meter run. In the men’s variant, Louis Colson found similar success in a field of 31 at a 8:34.78-second pace. Also in long distance, freshman Matthew Pereira found the podium following a the 1500-meter, third place finish.
Another freshman, Lizzie Gummer claimed gold in the 400-meter hurdles while senior Annika Gompers managed second in the 800.
The field proved similarly successful for the athletes in crimson as the crew returned to campus with five medals in hand. Freshman Rachael Estell led the group with a gold medallion in triple jump. Junior Nicole Trenchard, typically a vaulter for the Crimson, grabbed a silver in the javelin throw in a 36.50-meter toss. In Hammer throw, Harvard took second and third as junior Allison Rabe and Martha Kebeh tossed the hammer 41.98 and 40.74 meters, respectively.
“I think that the men's team overall did okay,” men’s co-captain Jay Hebert said. “There were some highlights, but I think we learned what we need to do in order to get on the level of some of the top teams.”
—Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @THC_CadePalmer.