On Thursday, the Crimson track and field team made the six-hour trek down to Philadelphia for the historic Penn Relays, in addition to sending a few others on a trip to Stonehill for the Skyhawk Invitational, in this final week of preparation before the divisional championships. One of this year’s shorter treks for the team that has traveled to Texas and Kansas, Penn’s meet held annually since 1895 at the Franklin Field is no doubt the most historic.
The five-day meet is brings together athletes of all ages, from middle schoolers to Olympians. Seeking glory in the nation’s oldest and largest track meet, teams from around the world descend on the field. The stadium, housing 52,958 within its 122-year-old structure, stands proudly near the heart of the city.
Originally dubbed a carnival, the races are said to have popularized relays in America. This weekend for Harvard, however, long distance reigned supreme.
“Penn Relays has a great atmosphere,” freshman Anna Juul said. “It's so fun to race under the lights at such a historic meet.”
In a race of 102 contestants, Crimson freshman Hugo Milner pushed himself to the front of the men’s 5000-meter race group and crossed the finish line sixth. The rookie finished ahead of every other Ivy League competitor and behind only three other attached collegiate athletes. The sixth place finish took 14:09.77 to complete and was Milner’s season best in the event. Men’s cross country captain Tyler Spear finished 41st while freshman Matthew Pereira finished 45th in 14:33.07.
In the women’s variant of the race, freshman Abbe Goldstein ran in 16:41.33 to claim ninth among the field of 55. Sophomore Gillian Meeks finished not far behind in the 20th slot while classmate Brooke Starn took 43rd.
The 3000-meter steeplechase told a similar story. In front of a home crowd that included her parents, Philadelphia native Juul paced Harvard as the top finisher from the institution. The first-year grabbed 14th place in the competitive field, finishing second among Ancient Eight racers. Cornell’s Briar Brumley was the only Ivy League woman to finish ahead of Juul, outpacing her by just over a second to take the 13th spot.
“I was very happy with my performance,” Juul said. “The steeplechase has a huge learning curve, which can be very fun. It's not uncommon for newcomers, like myself, to drop as much as 20 seconds from race to race. It was awesome to ride that improvement curve at Penn, especially since my parents were able to see it.”
Senior Fiona Davis also landed among the top 20 for the Crimson, placing 12th in the women’s 10,000-meter race. The senior was the first Ancient Eight runner to complete the event, doing so in 36:10.21.
While 12 runners traveled to the City of Brotherly Love, eight more took the short trip to Stonehill’s Skyhawk Invitational held in Easton, Mass.
Overall, Harvard placed ninth in the men’s events and 13th in the women’s, though the group was competing with a reduced squad.
Freshman pole vaulter Erick Duffy headlined for the Crimson taking the only gold for the team in the meet. The rookie hit the 5.07 meter jump on his third and final attempt, just out-leaping junior teammate Ian West in the event. Missing the 5.07 jump, the junior finished with the silver medal and a successful 4.85 meter jump. The duo out-performed the next closest competitor by over a foot.
“Being able to go to a meet and get the win is very exciting for me,” Duffy said. “I struggled at the beginning of the season and finally feel like things are starting to come together for me.”
Freshman Kahlil Wassell doubled dipped on Saturday, placing in the top-10 of two different events. First, Wassell grabbed fourth in the 200-meter, crossing the line 22.84 seconds after the gunshot. In the 100-meter, the rookie sprinted into a headwind, taking eighth on 11.27 second race.
The 800-meter event merited two top finishers for Harvard. Senior Annika Gompers hit a personal record and finished eighth in 2:14.51. Eliza Rego followed three seconds and three positions behind her teammate taking 11th.
Next week, the entirety of both teams heads down to Franklin Field for the Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Championships. Right now, the Crimson women’s team is No. 1 in the division and No. 4 in the Northeast Regional rankings.
“I will be racing the steeple, and possibly a relay, at Heps,” Juul said. “The Ivy League has a very competitive steeplechase field, so it will certainly be a good race. I'm recovering from a cold right now, but I should be ready to compete on Saturday.”
The women’s team has won the meet the last four years in a row, while the men haven’t finished above fourth in the last three seasons.
“The team has been doing very well as a whole,” Duffy said. “People are coming back from injuries, setting college and all time bests, and looking really good coming into championship season. I’m excited to be a part of this team. We can do something really special if everyone does what I know they can.”
—Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @THC_CadePalmer.
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