Gabby Runs Away

Photo: Patricia Melton


The Harvard women’s track & field team taught us all two great lessons at the 2017 Outdoor Heps Championship. First, don’t relay on the season performances lists, which had Penn ending the Crimson’s three-year win streak. Second lesson? Never think that there is a limit to what sophomore Gabby Thomas can do.

A unanimous pick as the Most Outstanding Track Athlete, Thomas won the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the long jump and the 4×100- and 4×400-meter relays in one of the most dominating performances in Ivy League history. And all five performances were something special. Her winning time in the 100-meter dash (11.15) was wind-aided, but 4/10th of a second faster than the championship record she set a year ago. Her 200 time of 22.84 was both wind legal and a meet record by more than 1/2 second (update: the wind for that race has been moved from 1.5 – legal – to 2.6 – illegal). Her winning long jump mark of 6.27 (20-7) was also wind legal and the fourth-best leap in championship history. In the relays, Harvard’s 4×1 set a meet record (44.42) and then Thomas split 52.24 on the victorious 4×4.

Thomas was hardly the only Crimson superstar. Senior Jade Miller won the 400-meter hurdles for the third time (56.95) and was second in the 100-meter hurdles in a speedy 13.66. To top that off, she anchored the winning 4×1 and 4×4 relays. Freshman Simi Fajemisin won the triple jump in a wind-assisted 12.74 meters (41-9 3/4), but also had a legal jump just three inches shy of her winning mark. And she was second to Thomas in the long jump with a legal 6.14 (20-1 3/4). And senior Nikki Okwelogu picked up 18 points in the throws, winning the shot put for the fourth time with a toss of 16.45 (53-11 3/4) and taking second in the discus with a best of 52.55 (172-5).

The nip-and-tuck battle with Penn never materialized as the Quakers were unable to keep up with their pre-meet rankings. The Red and Blue didn’t fall apart, finishing second with 125 points, but the meet produced amazing performances. Consider junior Taylor McCorkle, who broke the school record in the 200-meter dash (23.69), but finished fourth. Freshman Breanna Bygrave flirted with her own school mark in the 100-meter hurdles (13.72), but was third. But after the Quakers were disqualified in the 4×100-meter relay earlier in the day, it seemed like the team bled just a bit in each event. Next year’s Heps at Franklin Field can’t come soon enough for the Red & Blue.

Columbia junior Akua Obeng-Akrofi was impressive for the fourth-place Lions, winning the 400 in 53.38 and taking second in the 200 in a windy 23.30. Junior teammate Sarah Hardie — a three-time 1k indoor champ — proved yet again to be a game-day hero, taking the 800-meter run in 2:07.97 ahead of top-seed and teammate Brittney Wade, who finished third. Senior Henna Rustami — who was never pre-destined for such success upon her arrival in Morningside Heights — dominated the 5k run, beating the competition by 12 seconds despite giving up three seconds in the final lap.

Princeton, which took third with a late win in the 4×800-meter dash, had a strong showing from senior Lizzie Bird, who won the steeplechase in 10:14.34 by pulling away in the final lap. She also also handled the first leg of the winning relay. Senior Allison Harris, who broke the meet record in the pole vault by nine inches on Saturday, was named as the championship’s top field athlete.

If there was a rookie of the meet award, Dartmouth freshman Cha’Mia Rothwell might well have gotten it over Fajemisin. Rothwell almost broke Nicole Harrison’s 100-meter hurdle record, winning in 13.39. She scored points with a 23.88 time in the 200-meter final and was third in the long jump with a windy 5.95 (19-6 1/4).

Host Yale got a win from senior Frances Schmiede, who ran a smart 1,500 meters to beat Dartmouth’s Helen Schlautenhaufen, while Brown got a victorious return from junior Josie Natrasevschi in the discus throw.

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