As the Dust Settles…
Harvard Runs up a Storm at Heps Championship
By ELIZABETH GUMMER
The week before the Ivy League Track and Field Championships, commonly referred to by athletes as Heps Week, is amongst the most spirited of weeks for the Harvard Track and Field team every year. “Heps” refers to the proper title of the meet, the Heptagonal Championships. Although the meet is a competition between the eight Ivy League schools, the name was fitting when it was originally coined in 1934, when the only schools in contention were Harvard, Penn, Cornell, Columbia, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth. The indoor rendition of this meet began in 1948, and has aptly been named iHeps. Held at Harvard Gordon Indoor Track for the first time since 2015, crowds of students came out to support their fellow classmates for the one and only time during their four years at Harvard that the meet would be held at home.
Day one of the championships on the track started with a (literal) bang. Harvard’s own Livia Gauntlett won her heat of 60 meter hurdles with a time of 8.48 seconds for an automatic advancement into the final on Sunday. Teammate Karina Joiner also came away with an automatic qualifier (8.49), along with Jada Jones (8.65). Jones told the Indy she “knew the competition was steep and [she] was going to have to give it 110%” in the finals to secure a medal.”
Gauntlett brought the heat to finals, taking 0.02 seconds off her personal best (8.42) for second place while Jones took third place with a season’s best (8.47). Gauntlett was excited by “the depth in [the team’s] sprint events this year” and is as “excited for the outdoor season and next year” where she will race the 100 meter hurdles.
The Crimson team showed the home crowd a great performance in the women’s 60 meter dash, as Harvard pulled away with the top 4 rankings. Kelisa Cain (7.46), Ngozi Musa (7.51), Olivia Okoli (7.56), and DaLoria Boone (7.66) moved into finals all as automatic qualifiers. Musa came away with the incredibly deserved win (7.42) in her final indoor race as a Harvard athlete, noting that “it was such an amazing feeling to finally win [her] first Ivy League title after 4 years” after struggling with “the ups and downs of this sport.” Following in concession were Okoli, Cain, and Boone to take a podium sweep.
Musa reflected on how the team has “been working so hard this season, and to see Harvard come out on top [was] amazing.” She “couldn’t have done it without God, [her] family, coach, and teammates who have supported and pushed [her] to continue to get better.” Second place medalist Olivia commended Musa for her “much deserved Gold,” and commented on the Harvard women’s accomplishment, saying “it was amazing to do something like [the 1 – 4 top finishes] with the teammates [she] loves and trains so hard with everyday, and to have so much support from the whole team.”
Kelisa Cain set a personal best by 0.63 second with a time of 24.32 in the 200 meter, securing the top seed for finals. Micah Meekins (24.66) and Olivia Okoli (24.52) advanced as well, with Okoli going on to win third place in the finals with a time of 24.42.
Maya Miklos ran a personal best of 1:13.12 in the 500 meter heats for a second place seed in finals. Having learned her opponents race tactics from the day before, Miklos moved into first place on the back straight away. Breaking her personal best and a school record with a time of 1:11.78, Miklos felt “inspired by the energy [the] whole team brought to the meet” and “lucky to have such incredible teammates”. She feels pride in knowing they “worked really hard for this, and this weekend was a special moment”.
Katherine Gillespie cruised into an automatic qualifier for the 1000 meter finals with a time of 2:48.29 on Saturday, and later went on to score 8 points for the time with a second place finish (2:45.67).
Returning Junior Lisa Tertsch ran spectacularly in her second race of the indoor season, crossing the line over 11 seconds in front of the second place finisher in the women’s 5km to take the win.
On the men’s side of the competition, first-year Tre Hollingsworth secured a spot in the 60 meter hurdle finals with a time of 8.21 seconds, and senior Nicky Maxwell set a lifetime best in the 60 meter dash.
Sophomores Jovahn Williamson and Rodney Agyare-May both took comfortable first places in the semi-finals for the 400 meter and the 500 meter races respectively. Ryan Thrush also ran an automatic qualifying time in the 500 meter. Both Williamson (47.53) and Agyare-May (1:02.97) came away champions in their races, with Thrush coming away with a fourth place finish (1:03.68) in finals. Agyare-May noted he “felt as good as when the Patriots won the Super Bowl”, while Williamson “felt like things were finally clicking”. Williamson also moved onto the 200 meter finals with a top seed. He later finished sixth in the finals.
Senior Myles Marshall beat out second place by 0.51 seconds in the 800 meter heats on Saturday and held out his lead to secure his champion title with a 1:49.32, winning for the third year in a row.
Kieran Tuntivate appeared to be struggling during his first lap of the 3km as he took a few unstable steps while rounding the curve. The crowd would soon learn that Tuntivate was shaking off a shoe that had come loose after a competitor clipped his heels during the beginning of the race. With 14 laps to go Tunitivate ran barefoot, on the newly-resurfaced and yet-to-be-broken-in Harvard track. The surface was anything but smooth, and with only 100 meters left to go Tuntivate said he could “feel more skin pulling away” with each step and strategically “did the bare minimum to stay in the lead”, noting he “couldn’t accelerate as hard as [he] normally [does]” as he lacked the traction his spikes usually give him.
Tuntivate managed to hold onto his position within the top three competitors for the whole race. In a spectacular finish he the win with Battershill coming in just three seconds later for fourth place. Raw and bleeding, Tuntivate was ushered off the track and received medical care. Tuntivate mustered up the fight to race in the 5km the next day, again coming away with another Ivy League Champion title. The combined victories along with his ceaseless dedication earned him the honors of Most Outstanding Male Track Performer.
As for field events, Simi Fajemisin took fourth place in the long jump, earning two points for the Crimson women, and later jumped a personal best of 13.27 meters in the triple jump. Her jump earned her first place and the award of Most Outstanding Female Field Performer.
Team captains Ian West had a great day of jumping, tying his personal record in the men’s pole vault and coming away with 4 points for the team. West felts as though up until this meet, he had been “met with failure the entirety of this season”. West wants to send ending apologies to Professor Boyko, noting “this competition was the singular focus of all [his] attention for the past week and a half… and simply put, failure was not an option”. In sum, West notes that “in a field that contained 5 of the top 50 pole-vaulters in the country [he] came in 4th, tying [his] life-time best. As a senior captain it felt like a storybook ending to [his] final indoor meet.”
First-year Kyle Murphy scored 8 points for his team, taking second place in the men’s long jump for an overall improvement of 37 centimeters on his lifetime record. Day 2 of Heps brought Kyle a fourth place finish in the triple jump with 15.43 meters.
Junior Donagh Mahon leaped confidently into the high jump, clearing 2.12 meters on Sunday. His hops earned him the title of Ivy League Champion. Mahon cleared 2.18 meters in his first meet of the season, thus claiming he’d be lying if he “said [he] was happy with the height [he] ended on, but a win is a win”. He “was glad to secure 10 more points for the lads” and takes pride in the seven gold place finishes on the men’s side, and the second highest points overall in team history.
The last 3 events to take place were the distance medley relay, the 4×800 meter relay, and the 4×400 meter relay. The men’s team of Kaeo Kruse (1200m), Taylor Brunskole (400m), Ryan Thrush (800m), and Will Battershill (1600m) took the bronze medal with a time of 10:00.59 minutes. The women’s team of Abbe Goldstein, Micah Meekins, Tessa Medrano, and Kathryn Gillespie also took third place with a time of 11:39.57.
The 4x800s showed great effort, but the 4×400 teams came to score. Maya Miklos came back from her 500m win to lead off the team of Miklos, Sharelle Samuel, Olivia Okoli, and Karina Joiner to a bronze medal. The men’s team of Rodney Agyare-May, Myles Marshall, Jovahn Williamson, and Kahlil Wassell took the title of Ivy League champions in a race that saw Wassell diving across the finish line to beat out the Penn team by 0.03 seconds.
Once the dust had settled and the scores were totaled, the Harvard women came out with a second place finish, and the Harvard men with third. Both teams hope to improve upon their indoor season, and know they have work to do for the upcoming outdoor season this spring.
Elizabeth Gummer ‘21 ([email protected]harvard.edu) is a member of the Harvard Track Team.