2016-17 Track Woman of the Year

Gabrielle Thomas continues to redefine what it means to be an Ivy League sprinter.  The Harvard sophomore just proved that her rookie year was no fluke as she kept resetting her own conference records and showing the rest of the nation that she’s a sprinting force to be reckoned with.

Thomas closed out the 2016-17 year with another eight Heps titles – five individual and three relays – that helped the Crimson extend their track dominance for another year AND helped the school win their first ever Triple Crown (conference team titles in cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field).  In addition, she set three new personal bests that were also conference records: 7.29 in the 60m dash, 22.88 in the indoor 200m dash, and 11.24 in the 100m dash.  Now, she could have had the outdoor 200m and a faster 100m mark had the wind behaved at Outdoor Heps this past May… oh well, I think earning the Outdoor Heps Track MVP award can make up for it.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that she also earned the Indoor Heps Track MVP award as well.

Thomas also made history in the indoor season by becoming the first Heps woman to ever earn a top-eight finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships in a short sprinting event with her 8th place finish in the 200m final for First-Team All-American honors.  At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, she finished in 3rd place with a 22.61 time for her second First-Team All-American honor of the year.

I don’t believe we’ve seen the best of Thomas yet, and she’s pretty remarkable now.  If she’s as driven as her teammates and coaches say she is in various interviews, then she will continue to redefine sprinting over the course of the next few years.

Honorable Mention:

Henna Rustami used to think that she was the worst runner on her collegiate team, but I hope her 2016-17 season proved her wrong.  Rustami finished 8th in the NCAA Northeast Regional meet in November 2016, booking her a ticket to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.  She ultimately finished in 189th place.  During the indoor season, Rustami became the second Columbia Lions’ athlete to win the Indoor Heps 3,000m title (9:34.66) on Day 1 of the championship.  The next day, she had the fastest 1,600m of all of the DMR anchor legs (4:38.6) to close the gap and bring home victory on her school’s track.  She also won the Outdoor Heps 5,000m title with a time of 16:24.51, 12 seconds ahead of the next competitor.

photo by Brian Panoff

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