Harvard track and field’s men’s and women’s teams made history during the annual Harvard-Yale- Princeton (HYP) meet at Gordon Track on Saturday, January 28. Though Harvard took second place over, five members of the Crimson broke school records both on the track and in field events.
It was the throwing team that set the victorious tone for the clash of these Ancient Eight schools, setting new school records as well as winning four out of the five events. Senior thrower Stephanie Ratcliffe won the women’s weight throw, breaking the previous school record by one meter at 21.84 m. Senior captain Cammy Garabian, senior Estel Valeanu, and first-year Michaela Denson had honorable mentions, securing the third, fourth, and fifth places respectively.
The men’s throwing team did not disappoint the winning standard set by the women’s team’s throwers. Sophomore Kenneth Ikeji won the weight throw with 21.59 m, breaking the school record which he had previously held. Even more, senior Alexander Kolesnikoff broke the shot-put school record, setting the new mark at 19.83 m.
“It was Alexander who broke the shot-put record, and seeing him and Kenneth doing that week after week, breaking their own records is really cool,” said junior distance runner Maia Ramsden in reference to the team’s successes. “I feel like this generation of Harvard track athletes is rewriting that record book.”
Ramsden also played a key role in Harvard’s impressive performances on the track, setting another school record with her win in the 1000-meter race, posting a 2:43:03 time.
“I’ve never run the 1000 meters before, so I knew I was going to PR since I didn’t have any other time,” Ramsden said about her race. “I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen – it was a really pleasant surprise, I’d say.”
Sophomore Victoria Bossong led the sprint team, winning the 500-meter dash with a personal best of 1:11.96.
“I was excited going into my 500-meter race. It was the first time I had run that race since the Ivy League Championships of February 2022, and I was determined to earn myself a good seed time before running the event at Ivy League Championships later this month,” said Bossong reflecting on her win.
“I was blessed to run a PR by over half a second — faster than I had run to earn myself the 500m Ivy League title last year.”
The rest of the underclassmen sprinters also had success with their races. Sophomore Izzy Goudros won the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.55 seconds. First-year Mfoniso Andrew took first place in her heat of the 200-meter dash in 24.60 seconds, a performance that was enough to win the entire event. First-year Jackie Okereke ran a 57.05-second 400-meter dash, earning her third-place finish in the event.
The Crimson women ended their night with a dominating 4x400 relay team made up of Bossong, first-year Chloe Fair, Andrew, and Okereke. The team won the race by a close seven-second margin.
“Within our sprint group, it has been especially impressive to see how much growth the first years have made since the fall,” reported Bossong. “Training with other talented 400-meter ladies has been beneficial for us all as we have been able to push each other every day at practice as well as in competitions.”
The men’s team made remarkable statements on the track as well. Sophomore Graham Blanks won the 1000-meter race with a 2:23.16 time. In an exciting 60-meter hurdle dash, senior Samuel Bennett also broke a school record at 7.84 seconds. For their teammates, the excitement from each consecutive win helped fuel motivation for racing.
“It’s just so inspiring, and being able to watch Sam hurdle before I ran, I think it is really fun and creates this culture of success,” Ramsden commented. “You know, like my teammates are doing this – I can do this.”
In the 800-meter run, Harvard’s Vivien Henz – the only first-year in the event – posted a 1:51:22 time mark to take second place. To end the day in a nail-biter, the Crimson’s men's 4 x 400 relay team was unable to surpass Princeton by 0.160 seconds, putting them in second place.
For the Crimson, the most crucial aspect of its training is making sure they’re in the best racing condition when it matters the most, understanding that it can come down to less than two-tenths of a second in the end.
“Our coach is pretty keen on us peaking at the right time,” Ramsden said. “I think that at first, that means on the scoreboard – Princeton beats us, but in the long term, it’s better because we’re learning to adapt to new races.”
“That means when you put us in our good track events, like the Ivy League Championships, for example, we’re going to see this big jump.”
Ramsden, who hails from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, reflected on the competition that Princeton tends to bring toward the start of the season. Princeton took home the HYP trophy this year, with the women’s team tallying 159 points on the board to defeat the defending Harvard champions.
“Sometimes they teeter off, which is not something we’re known for. Usually, we have the opposite trajectory – I think it’s good to have a little fire under you at the start of the season.”
Looking forward, Harvard track and field will split between two meets this weekend, hosting the Crimson Elite and Multi at Gordon Track, while some runners will cross the river to Boston University for the Scarlet & White Invitational.
“There’s no team stakes on the line, there’s no title on the line, it’s really just a chance for everybody to have a really good opportunity to improve their personal bests and racing strategy,” Ramsden said.
–Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at email@example.com.