Eighteen schools gathered at Harkness Track & Field on Saturday to run, jump, vault, and throw at the Upstate Classic, the first home track and field meet of the season hosted by Rensselaer. Of the 20 events held for both men and women, 12 were won by Engineers.
Five distance athletes who did not compete at RPI raced the previous day at Connecticut College’s Silfen Invitational. Junior Ben Fazio broke the Institute record for the men’s 5000 meters with his time of 14:27.62. Freshman Grant O’Connor, who came in runner-up to Fazio, also broke the former record in 14:34.65. Sophomore Jaime Lord destroyed the women’s 5000 meter record with her time of 16:41.39, while junior Maddie Dery placed third with a personal record time of 17:02.14 and senior Shannon Trant claimed sixth in 17:19.24.
On Saturday, two distance events and three throwing events were won by the men’s team. The women’s team won eight total events: three distance, three throwing, one relay, and one hurdling.
The meet began at 11 am with the running of the women’s 3000 meter Steeplechase, led by junior Allison Thayer from the moment the starting gun was fired. With an early lead, Thayer surged ahead with every passing lap, increasing her gap on runner-up Sarah Dimakis of Hamilton College. After winning the race in 12:03.11, Thayer had helped the Engineers off to a strong start early on.
In the men’s 3000 meter Steeplechase, freshman Sean O’Connor took off to an early lead that would help him finish far ahead of the rest of the field in 9:44.77. Behind him, junior Christopher Angelo maintained a steady pace that helped him avoid falling back too far behind O’Connor to finish second. O’Connor will compete again in the Steeplechase next weekend at the Liberty League Championship.
“Overcoming the barriers is something that I still need to work on,” said O’Connor. “I try to look past the barrier, accelerate into it, focus on my form and land smoothly.
“I still do the same workouts as the other distance guys on the team. At the end of workouts and practices though, I work on hurdling or the water jump.”
Eight of the top ten runners in the women’s 1500 meters were RPI athletes. Senior Alexa Sakorafos, senior Loki Rasmussen, and junior Jodi Wrzosek finished first, second, third overall. In the first heat, senior Isabel Johnson clung to the leader to finish runner-up.
Crossing the line in first and second respectively in the men’s 1500 were juniors Colin Smith and Garrett Davis. Their times of 4:03.73 and 4:05.02 are testaments to their lasting endurance.
Junior Mary West was the champion of the women’s 5000 meter run. She was the only competitor from RPI in the 12.5 lap race, which made the race more challenging for her, but also equally, if not more exciting.
“The 5000 is my favorite event,” said West. “The most fun part about the race this past weekend was winning, since I haven’t ever won a race in college before. The most difficult part was … having to run the entire thing alone [but] for my first race this season with some not so ideal circumstances, coming out with my first collegiate victory was pretty exciting.”
Victorious in the women’s 400 meter hurdles was sophomore Caroline Howes. Junior Sara Khedr placed second in both the women’s 200 meter dash and 400 meter dash. She was also the third leg of the first place 4 x 100 meter relay team, running with juniors Haley Hahn and Monica Mazur and freshman Vera Titze.
Competing in three throwing events, senior Andrea Ukleja threw 11.93 meters in the shot put to take first place. She later took second in the hammer throw with her mark of 45.82 meters and placed sixth in discus.
Freshman Aurora Freedman sent the javelin the farthest of 16 throwers with her mark of 34.99 meters. RPI also won the men’s javelin thanks to senior Tyler Yeastedt’s 52.37 meter throw. Marking second behind him was freshman Joseph Vetere.
Yeastedt continued his winning streak in the discus and the shot put. He threw 53.57 meters in the discus and 15.43 meters in the shot put. In the hammer throw, he took second with 54.91 meters. Junior Mike Pensanello came in third in both the shot put and the hammer throw.
In the men’s pole vault, both freshman Joseph Vetere and senior Nathaniel Ogilvie vaulted over the bar at 4.05 meters to tie for second. Freshmen Jillian Salkind and Lauren Parker also reached the same height of 1.54 meters in the women’s high jump, placing second and fourth respectively.
Liberty League Outdoor Championships will take place this Saturday at St. Lawrence University, where the Engineers will work to qualify athletes for the New York Track Conference Championship beginning on May 1.