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The Harvard track and field team sent six athletes to the NCAA championship meet in Albuquerque, N.M. on March 10 and 11. The Crimson saw great success, earning eight team honors as well as an individual award.
“I think the big thing is really just the standard of excellence is obviously the highest that we see throughout the year,” said head coach Jason Sarestky about the caliber of the NCAA meet in comparison to previous meets. “Event after event, there’s just such a high level of performance, and it was great to see so many Harvard student-athletes competing at that level.”
Up first, sophomore Izzy Goudros competed for Harvard in the women’s pentathlon, placing eleventh. Goudros set a new personal best in the 60 m hurdles with a time of 8.41 seconds, which puts her third in the record books for the event. She also ran a personal best in the 800 m with a time of 2:17.78 seconds, ending the event with a score of 4165 points.
Her teammate sophomore Kenneth Ikeji took tenth place in the men’s weight throw. His first throw, a mark of 21.92 m, was the best he threw that day. His teammate, senior Alexander Kolesnikoff, finished twelfth in the men’s shot put, throwing at 19.64 m, both earning Second-Team honors.
On the running side, sophomores Acer Iverson and Graham Blanks ran in the men’s 5000 m race.
“Just to be there is an honor for Acer and I, because once you get there and you race against these people they’re the cream of the crop,” said Blanks about going into the race. “You have to be ready to go, you have to be ready to roll with the punches because the guys you’re racing are incredibly fit and incredibly talented.”
Both runners crossed the finish line almost a second apart. Iverson ran in 14:18.88 seconds, and Blanks came in just behind him at 14:19.55 seconds, placing them in 12th and 13th places, respectively.
“It’s really cool,” said Blanks about competing alongside his teammate.“It’s kind of a dream of ours to do that for a while. We took a gap year together in 2020-2021, back when we weren’t nearly where we are now. I think we both thought it’d be pretty cool to have not only one, but multiple Harvard jerseys on the line at a track championship, because personally we’ve never seen that before from Harvard in the years we’ve been running. So it felt like a pretty big deal to go out and do that with Acer.”
Junior Maia Ramsden took fourth in her heat of the mile in the preliminaries, qualifying with a time of 4:40.16 seconds.
On day two, Ramsden, the school record holder for the indoor women’s mile, placed fifth overall in the nation for the event, running a time of 4:36.54 seconds. Her race earned her First-Team Honors, as well as a spot on the podium. About an hour after the mile, Ramsden was back on the podium for the women’s 3000 m run, earning eighth place with a time of 9:16.99 seconds.
Blanks competed in the 3000 m run as well, finishing in 13th place with a time of 8:10.11 seconds. This placed him three spots higher than his initial ranking going into championships.
Ramsden was also the recipient of the 2023 Elite 90 Award for the NCAA Championship. The Elite 90 award is given to a student athlete who excels both in academics as well as their sport. Ramsden held the highest cumulative GPA out of all other female competitors at the meet.
“I was incredibly proud of Maia,” said Sarestky. “She certainly is the epitome of a student athlete, pursuing academic and athletic excellence, and for her to have that recognition in front of her peers was just a testament to her hard work and how dedicated she is as a student athlete.”
The team has also received several USTFCCCA Northeast Regional Awards, which were announced on March 16th. This put Harvard at second place in the nation for the number of regional awards, tying it with NCAA champions University of Arkansas.
“Just really proud of our program,” said Sarestky about the awards the Crimson won this season. “The individual student athletes do a tremendous job with their work ethic and their dedication, and so it was great to see the other coaches in the Northeast recognizing our student-athletes and the same for our two assistant coaches that were recognized.”
The Men’s Field Athlete of the Year was given to Ikeji, who won the Ivy League men’s weight throw, throwing a personal best of 22.64 m. Ikeji also happens to be the current school record holder for the men’s weight throw.
Ramsden was the recipient of the Women’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Ramsden was the mile and 1000 m champion at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and she also set the school record this indoor season in the mile with a time of 4:30.19 seconds, the 1000 m with 2:43.03 seconds, and the 3000 m with 9:16.99 seconds.
“Not surprised,” said Blanks about Ramsden’s award. “Maia is an incredible runner, and I don’t really see many people in the Northeast able to compete with her right now – she’s just a level above.”
The Women’s Field Athlete of the Year was senior Stephanie Ratcliffe, the Ivy League and Harvard record holder in the women’s weight throw. Out of the five weight throw events she competed in this year, she came out victorious in four of them.
Along with athletes, coaches also received honors from the Regional Awards.
Marc Mangiacotti won the Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year. In his 11th season with the Crimson, his athletes accounted for 92 out of 163 points that Harvard earned at the Ivy League Championships. His team of sprinters, hurdlers, and jumpers won seven events at the Heptagonal Championships and broke three school records.
The Women’s Assistant Coach award went to Alex Gibby, a sixth year associate head coach of the program.
Saretsky, the recipient of the Ivy League Women’s Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year award, was also granted the honor of Women’s Coach of the Year. In his 17th season, he sent the most athletes to the NCAAs.
“I really feel like that’s a credit to our program,” said Sarestky in reference to his award. “It’s really the entire coaching staff and our student athletes that deserve all the credit and praise for it.”
During the season, a number of athletes also made some history.
At the Scarlet and White meet at Boston University, first year Vivien Henz, a native of Luxembourg, set a new indoor mile record for his country with a time of 3:57.47 seconds, a full ten seconds faster than the previous record. At the same meet, Blanks also ran a 3:56.63 mile to set the Ivy League and Harvard record.
Pole vaulter sophomore Anastasia Retsa set a school record of 4.17 m at the BU Valentine Invite in early February, being the only athlete at the meet to clear 3.90 m. Senior John Minicus also represented the Crimson as the sole competitor for the program at the ICAC/ECAC championships, breaking the men’s pentathlon record earlier this March.
Sophomore Victoria Bossong set the new school record for the 500m run with a time of 1:10.23 seconds. She then went on to break the 4x400m relay record for Harvard and the Ivy League alongside Goudros, senior Tina Martin, and sophomore Chloe Fair at the Tiger Paw Invite in early February. The men’s team joined them to also beat some records, with first year Jonas Clarke and sophomore Lance Ward breaking the 60 m and 200 m dash record in times of 6.71 seconds and 21.07 seconds respectively.
Moving forward, the Crimson will continue its outdoor season after opening at the University of Houston Spring Break Invite meet this past Thursday.
— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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