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Hughes, Okwelogu, Pendergast, Thomas Set For NCAA Indoor Championships

Hughes, Okwelogu, Pendergast, Thomas Set For NCAA Indoor Championships

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Harvard indoor track and field will send four qualified student athletes to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Texas A&M at Gilliam Indoor Stadium this weekend (March 10-11). The event will be streamed live on ESPN3 beginning at 6:25 p.m. on Friday, and 4:55 p.m. on Saturday. Representing Harvard will be Zoe Hughes (pentathlon), Nikki Okwelogu (shotput), Judy Pendergast (5000m), and Gabby Thomas (200m), who each finished with top-16 performances in their respective events to qualify for the biggest meet of the indoor season.

"I'm incredibly proud of the four student-athletes we have representing Harvard at the national championships and also all of our team members who embody our commitment to academic and athletic excellence," said The William W. "Bill" McCurdy Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Jason Saretsky.

- NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship Landing Page
Meet Schedule
- Entry List
- Friday ESPN3 Link l Saturday ESPN3 Link
- Harvard History at NCAAs

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Freshman Zoe Hughes
Event: Pentathlon
Qualifying Score: 4,093 points (13th, NCAA), Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships
Notes: Hughes, a first team All-Ivy and USTFCCCA Northeast Region Field Athlete of the Year selection, became Harvard's first Ivy Indoor Heps champion in the women's pentathlon since 2009 (Shannon Flahive), recording the second most points in school and Ivy League history (4,093) behind All-American Martina Salandar (4,209). Hughes won the 60m hurdles (8.71s), the shot put (12.07m), the 800m (2:21.62) and the long jump (6.07m, 2nd best mark in school history).

Senior Nikki Okwelogu
Event: Shotput
Qualifying Throw: 16.84 meters (16th, NCAA), Harvard-Yale-Princeton Meet
Notes: Okwelogu qualified for her third consecutive NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships back on Jan. 29th at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet. Okwelogu won the shotput with a throw of 16.84 meters, which ranked 9th in the nation at the time. Two weeks ago, Okwelogu clinched her fourth straight Ivy Indoor Heps title in the shotput, winning the event with a throw of 16.52 meters. Last year at NCAA Indoors, Okwelogu earned the bronze with her career best (indoor) throw of 17.66 meters, crushing her own Harvard and Ivy League records in the process by 17.25 inches. Her toss was 1.25 inches shy of the winning mark posted by Kansas State's Dani Winters, and helped her earn first team All-America honors.

Freshman Judy Pendergast
Event: 5000 meters
Qualifying Time: 15:52.64 (10th, NCAA), Husky Classic
Notes: Competing in one of the top indoor regular season meets, Pendergast ran 15:52.64 at the
Husky Classic (Washington) to finish second place, recording the third fastest time in the event in school history, and the sixth fastest in Ivy League history. Pendergast's effort was part of an outstanding indoor season. A first team All-Ivy selection, Pendergast won the 5000-meters at Ivy Indoor Heps, battling Columbia senior Natalie Tanner to the finish line and winning the event in 16:07.26. She is Harvard's first indoor Heps champion in the event since Lindsey Scherf in 2006. 

Sophomore Gabby Thomas
Event: 200 meters
Qualifying Time: 22.88 (7th, NCAA), Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships
Notes: Thomas was in a class by herself in Ivy League competition this season. A first team All-Ivy selection, Thomas broke her own school and Ivy records in both the 60m dash (7.29) and 200m dash (22.88) at the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships. For her efforts, Thomas was named Ivy Indoor Heps Most Outstanding Track Performer. Thomas also earned USTFCCCA Northeast Region Track Athlete of the Year for another outstanding season. Though this will be Thomas' first NCAA Indoor Championships, she competed in the 200 meters at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, placing third overall with a time of 22.47 in the final to earn first team All-America honors.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 1: Harvard's women's team finished the indoor season as the top-ranked program in the Northeast region.
  • 3: Senior captain Efe Uwaifo captured his third straight Ivy Indoor Heps title in the triple jump, sealing the win on his final jump of the day (15.82m).
  • 4: By nature of having a nationally-ranked top-16 mark – Zoe Hughes (pentathlon), Nikki Okwelogu (shotput), Judy Pendergast (5000m), and Gabby Thomas (200m) will compete at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. The four qualifiers are the most that Harvard has had at NCAA Indoors.
  • 5: Harvard's women's team won its fifth-consecutive Ivy League Indoor Championship and seventh in program history.
  • 6: Six Harvard records have fallen during the 2016-17 campaign – sophomore Gabby Thomas new school marks in the 60m (7.29s) and 200m (22.88) at Indoor Heps, freshman Simi Fajemisin broke school records in the long jump (6.09m) and triple jump (12.96m) at Indoor Heps, and Myles Marshall owns the school record in the 800m run (1:48.17). The men's 4x400 meter relay team of James Heckendorn, Myles Marshall, Matt Hurst, and Alexander Moore set a new school record at the IC4A Championships, placing first in the preliminary round with a time of 3:10.84.
  • 10: Judy Pendergast owns the 10th-fastest time nationally in the 5,000 meters at 15:52.64.
  • 16: Nikki Okwelogu's toss in the shot put at the H-Y-P meet traveled 55-3 (16.84 meters), and the mark is the best in the Ivy League by nearly six feet.
  • 32: Freshman Anthony DeNitto captured the Ivy Indoor Heps title with a monster third jump of the competition, shattering his own personal mark (7.00m) with a 7:37m jump. DeNitto's jump was the best by a Harvard long jumper in 32 years, and gave Harvard its first individual Heps title in the event since James Johnson in 1982.

HUGHES, THOMAS, SARETSKY, TOLBERT EARN USTFCCCA NORTHEAST REGION AWARDS
The United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced on March 6that Harvard women's track and field earned all four USTFCCCA NCAA Division I Northeast Region Awards. Jason Saretsky, the William W. "Bill" McCurdy Director of Track and Field/Cross Country, was named Women's Coach of the Year, Kebba Tolbert earned Women's Assistant Coach of the Year, sophomore sprinter Gabby Thomas was named Women's Track Athlete of the Year, and freshman pentathlete Zoe Hughes earned Women's Field Athlete of the Year honors.

Related Story: Hughes, Thomas, Saretsky, Tolbert Honored With USTFCCCA Northeast Region Awards

SARETSKY NAMED IVY COACH OF THE YEAR, 15 HONORED BY LEAGUE
After claiming a historic fifth straight Ivy League Heptagonal Championship, Jason Saretsky, the William W. 'Bill' McCurdy Director of Track and Field/Cross Country, was named Ivy League Coach of the Year on the women's side. This marks the third straight year that Saretsky has netted coach of the year honors from the Ivy League.

In addition, Harvard track and field had 15 selections to All-Ivy League teams, with several student-athletes earning multiple all-conference honors. All-Ivy selections are based on results from Indoor Heps, with all first-place finishers (including ties and relays) earning first-team All-Ivy, and all second-place finishers (including ties and relays) earning second-team All-Ivy.

Harvard recorded top two finishes in 14 different events.

Related Story: Saretsky Named Women's Coach of the Year: Harvard Earns 15 All-Ivy Selections

HARVARD WOMEN'S TEAM RANKED No. 37
The Harvard women's team is ranked No. 37 in the final USTFCCCA Indoor Track and Field rankings, the lone Ivy squad in the top-50.

ABOUT HARVARD TRACK AND FIELD
Harvard is led by outdoor All-American and First Team All-Ivy sophomore Gabby Thomas in the 60 meter, and outdoor All-American senior Jade Miller in the 60 meter hurdles and 400m. On the men's side, All-Ivy selections Jonas Aranda (4x800m), Myles Marshall (4x800m), and Gabe Montague (4x800m) are back in action, while team co-captain Andrew Roney will compete in the pole vault, an event he finished fourth in at the Ivy League Outdoor Championships. The men's team was ranked 9th in the USTFCCCA Northeast Regional Rankings, the third highest among Ivy institutions.

A YEAR AGO
Harvard's women's team finished the indoor season as the top-ranked program in the Northeast region, while the men's team wound up ninth. The Crimson landed a pair of student-athletes with first team All-America honors during the indoor campaign: sophomore Courtney Smith and junior Nikki Okwelogu, who both had standout preformances at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Okwelogu and Smith took third and eighth in the shot put and 5,000 meters, respectively, to earn first team All-America honors. The duo joined an elite group of All-Americans, with Okwelogu writing her name on the list for the second time.

Okwelogu earned the bronze with a career-best throw of 57-11.25 (17.66 meters), crushing her own Harvard and Ivy League records in the process by 17.25 inches. Smith ran to an eighth-place result in the 5,000 meters to garner a first team All-America nod with a time of 16:04.86. The sophomore persevered late in the race, moving up three spots over the final 2,000 meters.

Last year, several Crimson standouts kicked off their collegiate careers with unprecedented performances. Gabby Thomas tallied 10 individual victories through eight meets in the indoor season, three times in the 60 meters, five times in the 200 meters and twice in the long jump to lead the freshman class. She owns the school and Ivy records in the 60 and 200 meters. Fellow sprinter Ngozi Musa also placed in the school's top-10 list in the 60 meters (second, 7.40 seconds).

On the men's side, Myles Marshall broke indoor school records in the 800 meters at the Rod McCravy Memorial, running 1:49.35, and the 500 meters at the IC4A Championships with a time of 1:01.63. Classmate Ian West claimed top honors in the pole vault (15-9, 4.80 meters) at the Beantown Challenge, while Kieran Tuntivate owned the Crimson's best indoor mark last season in the 1,000 meters (2:28.14).

RECAPPING CROSS COUNTRY
At the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Oct. 29, sophomore Kieran Tuntivate's 18th place finish (24:16.8) was the top performance for the Harvard men as the team took eighth overall. Tuntivate represented the team at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on Nov. 11 at Van Cortlandt Park in New York, placing 23rd overall with a 31:16.40 finish on the 10k course. Tuntivate's finish was the highest by a Harvard sophomore at that event since 2008, and he earned USTFCCCA All-Region honors by finishing in the top-25.

It was a historic season for women's cross country, which earned its first team bid to the NCAA National Championships since 2012, placing 26th overall. Junior Courtney Smith earned USTFCCCA All-America recognition (20:21.1) by finishing 35th overall. Harvard qualified for NCAAs by virtue of its second place finish at the NCAA Regional Championships on Nov. 11 at Van Cortlandt Park in New York. The second place showing was the highest finish at that event in program history, as junior Courtney Smith finished second overall in 20:13.90, leading a group of five Harvard runners who each finished in the top 26 of the race. Smith, freshman Judy Pendergast (6th, 20:38.00), sophomore Erin Dietz (17th, 20:57.00) and junior Elianna Shwayder (20th, 21:08.30) each earned USTFCCCA All-Region honors.

History was made at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Oct. 29, Courtney Smith won the individual title in 20:19.6 to lead the Crimson to its first Heps title since 1985 and seventh overall in program history. Smith's finish, the first individual title for Harvard since Suzanne Jones in 1989, was part of an outstanding team performance for the Crimson. Harvard's top five finishers placed in the top 12 of the race, as the Crimson totaled 33 points, ahead of Yale (69 points), and Penn (77 points) on the podium.

SOCIAL STREAM
Use the Social Stream on GoCrimson.com to stay connected with the Crimson on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube this year. The Social Stream brings the conversation from all four platforms into one convenient location, allowing fans of all Harvard Athletics teams to monitor the action in real time.

Follow @HarvardTrack_XC on Twitter for updates during the competition.

AYE AYE, CAPTAIN
Seniors Julian Nunally, Andrew Roney, and Efe Uwaifo were elected captains for the 2016-17 season on the men's side, while the women's squad will be led by seniors Madeleine Ankhelyi and Raegan Nizdil. Roney is in his second year as captain while the remaining selections are in their first season as captains of the Harvard track and field team.

AT THE HELM
Jason Saretsky is in his 11th season as the William W. "Bill" McCurdy Director of Track and Field Cross Country, and during his tenure the Crimson women have tallied three indoor Ivy League Championships. Saretsky's tenure has seen 29 All-America performances, 40 NCAA qualifiers and 99 Heptagonal champions during the indoor season.

WHAT'S NEXT
Harvard kicks off the outdoor season at two events next weekend, the Cougar Spring Break Invitational and the Texas Southern Relays.

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