We kick of our accolades with our Rookies of the Year. It took a lot of thinking to determine this year’s top rookies, mainly because of the kind of freshmen class we have and their changing team roles throughout the seasons. In the end, we decided to focus on a combination of both individual and team supporting efforts.
For the men, we have a contrast of individual versus team success. Harvard’s Elliot Safo (Caterham, England) might not have had a long rookie collegiate season, but he made quite an impact. Safo was the only rookie to win a conference title this past year, where he won the Outdoor Heps long jump title with a leap of 25-04 ½, the ninth best performance at an Outdoor Heps. This mark has a second meaning – this mark bests the oldest school record within the current conference configuration, Ned Gourdin’s 25-02 ¾ distance that he set back in July 1921. Safo also won the Penn Relays College Eastern Long Jump title in his collegiate debut (24-06 1/4). While Safo missed out on qualifying to NCAAs by 9 centimeters, he still had an eventful summer by earning a silver medal at the England Under-23 Athletics Championships, with a distance of 24-10.
Meanwhile, Columbia’s Jack Boyle (Avon-By-The-Sea, N.J.) made his collegiate impact back in the 2013 cross country season. He was the top freshman runner in the conference throughout the season (he finished 20th at HepsXC), but earned a title of “team hero” back in October 2013, where his 50th place finish at the Notre Dame XC Invitational secured Columbia the team title and propelled them onto the national stage (going from #30 to #8 in the national rankings). In addition to helping Columbia win their 4th ever Heps Cross Country team title (where he was the team’s #4 runner), Boyle helped the Lions to a 25th place team finish at NCAAs, where he finished as the team’s #3 runner and 171st overall. Boyle was the only Ivy frosh to compete at NCAA XC last year. Boyle finished his freshman year with the 7th fastest 10km time of the year of 29:35.83, where he had finished in second place at the Penn Relays race.
For the women, no female rookie was nearly as dominant in their events like Harvard freshman Nikki Okwelogu (Fresno, Calif.). While her high school background showed her strength as a discus thrower, she made her name as a dominating force in the shot put, sweeping the indoor and outdoor titles at Heps with throws over 50 feet. These wins helped the Harvard women sweep the team titles at Indoor and Outdoor Heps. In the outdoor season, she also earned All-Ivy honors in the discus while also winning the ECAC title in the shot put and earning Academic All-American honors. She had a long rookie campaign though, as she competed in three international events this past summer while representing Team Nigeria – the World Junior Championships, Commonwealth Games, and African Championships. She earned her first international medal at the African Championships, where she finished 2nd in the discus throw (169-05 ¾).
Efe Uwaifo (Harvard) – Uwaifo (London, England) was the only make freshman to qualify for NCAAs in either of the track and field seasons. After finishing second to Princeton’s Damon McLean at both Indoor and Outdoor Heps, Uwaifo secured the final NCAA qualification spot in the triple jump at the East Region Preliminary round, where he leapt a new collegiate best of 51-01 to finish in 12th place. He would ultimately finish 24th at NCAAs with best of 50-0.
Brendan Shearn (Penn) – Shearn (Ashland, Penn.) made his name this year by finishing in 2nd place at the USATF Junior Championships in the 10km in 30:55.52, earning a chance to compete for Team USA at the IAAF World Junior Championships. Shearn would go on to finish as top American and 15th overall at World Juniors in 30:24.30.
Megan Curham (Princeton) – Curham ran at multiple NCAA championships during her rookie year, resulting in earned All-American honors with a 34th place finish in cross country and an 11th place finish in the 10km at the Outdoor championships. On the conference level, Curham earned three Second-Team All-Ivy honors across Indoor and Outdoor Heps (indoors: 3km and 5km; outdoors: 10km), in addition to two third-place finishes (HepsXC and Outdoor Heps 5km). Her seasonal bests of 16:00.71 in the 5km and 33:24.79 in the 10km ranks her among the top-10 all time within each event.
Jade Miller (Harvard) – Miller (Temecula, Calif.) made a name for herself on the sprinting scene by winning the 400m hurdles (58.72) at Outdoor Heps and 400m runner-up (55.29) at Indoor Heps. She was also a key member for Harvard’s sprint relays, including the 4×100 foursome that set a new conference record of 45.40 at Outdoor Heps. Qualified for NCAAs in the 400m hurdles, where she finished 12th in the event. She earned a bronze medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships in the 400m hurdles, running a new personal best of 56.22 that is the second fastest time in conference history.
photos – Safo and Okwelogu by Doug Austin; Boyle by Gene Boyars