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Athlete of the week: Zac O’Dell ʼ20

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Zac O’Dell ʼ20, the 6-foot-7 forward from Schenectady N.Y., has been a key contributor to the Garnet men’s basketball team in their historic season. O’Dell has had standout games against Middlebury — one of the best teams in Division III — and more recently against Haverford, where he scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Garnet knocked off Franklin and Marshall in a well-attended scrappy game this past Saturday to clinch home court advantage for the Centennial Conference playoffs. Swarthmore will host Ursinus in the conference semifinals this Friday at Tarble Pavilion. If Swarthmore wins, the team will take on the winner of Johns Hopkins and Franklin and Marshall in the final on Saturday. We hope to see everyone at the game!

Ping Promrat: What is your major, and what are your plans following graduation at Swarthmore?

Zac O’Dell: I am in the process of becoming a biochemistry Major and a psychology minor. As for plans after Swat, I’m not quite sure at the moment, but I would like to go to graduate school, I think.

PP: What got you into basketball as a kid? How did you find out about Swarthmore in the recruiting process?

ZO: Both my parents played basketball in college, so I’ve really enjoyed both playing and watching the sport for as long as I can remember. Before being recruited, I had actually never heard of Swarthmore, but after I went to a basketball camp at Columbia during my junior summer, Coach Landry reached out to me, and I fell in love with the school.

PP: What have been some of the highlights from this season?

ZO: I would say the trip to Middlebury College is one of my favorite highlights from the season. All the guys had a blast on the overnight trip, and we finished it off by beating a top tier team on the road.

PP: How would you describe the fan support at Swarthmore for the team, and has it improved over the last year?

ZO: Since I’ve been at Swarthmore, the fan support has been unbelievable. I’ve only lost two or three games at home in my two years here, and the fan base is a key factor in that. As a team we love seeing the campus coming out, getting wild, and supporting the team. It’s really a lot of fun for everybody.

PP: What was the senior game against Franklin and Marshall like? Did the team appreciate the fans who came out to support?

ZO: The senior game versus Franklin and Marshall was a lot of fun. Swat versus F and M always feels like a rivalry game, as both teams have been at the top the conference since I’ve been here, and beating them on Senior Night and clinching home court for the playoffs made for a very fun win. The team loves all the fans that come out to support — it definitely makes a difference with them there, especially in close games like Senior Night.

PP: How important is home court advantage for the team going into the playoffs?

ZO: Home court advantage is huge for the playoffs. As a team we get to go through the same routine we always do getting ready for home games, which helps us out a lot. The fan base is also another important factor. For fans to be getting dressed up in wild outfits and then come be loud at the games puts the energy and momentum in favor of us from the very tip.

Athlete of the week: Conor Harkins ’21

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The Men’s Basketball team started off this season hot, with a high-scoring 111-89 win over Hood College. Freshman Guard Conor Harkins from Greenwich, Conn. made a big arrival on to the collegiate basketball scene in his first career game, sinking nine three-point shots and scoring 27 points to lead the Garnet in scoring. The Garnet are now 4-0 and ranked 12th nationally, and will play their conference home opener tonight against Muhlenberg College in Tarble Pavilion.

Jack Corkery: What is your intended major, and what made you choose it?

Conor Harkins: I’m not entirely sure yet, but I am leaning towards majoring in economics. I have always been interested in the areas of business and finance and feel that an economics major would best capture that together.

JC: How did you decide to attend Swarthmore College?

CH: There were a lot of factors that went into making me choose Swarthmore. The biggest thing that I saw in Swarthmore were the endless opportunities. Between the top-notch academics and a talented basketball team, Swarthmore seemed like the perfect fit for me. Additionally, on my visits here all of the players and coaches and even other students I met were all nice and fun to hang out with. It was also a great location, being just over two hours away from where I live so not too far but far enough that I didn’t feel like I was still at home.

JC: How has the adjustment to college life been athletically and academically?

CH: At first it was a big adjustment trying to find the right balance and way to manage my time. I think what helped me and I’m sure the rest of the freshmen a lot was the fact that our first semester here is pass/fail. This made the workload seem a little less stressful, and allowed for me to figure out how to schedule my time between sports, academics, and sleep. As for basketball, it is similar to how I thought it was going to be work-wise. It is obviously more serious and takes up more time than high school sports, but it is something I love and am passionate about so it doesn’t seem like a hassle to me. By this point I would say I am pretty settled in and have gotten used to college life, but the biggest difference was just trying to figure out how to effectively use my time.

JC: What was it like sinking 9 threes and scoring 27 points in your first collegiate game?

CH: Going into the game I was definitely a little nervous, but I was also really excited. Scoring 27 points in that first game still feels surreal to me, but it felt great just to simply help the team get a win in the first game of the year. To hit nine threes in my first collegiate game is definitely something I’ll remember for a very long time, and it was a pretty special moment to have both of my parents there for it as well.

JC: Do you have any personal or team goals for the remainder of the season?

CH: Our team goal is to simply be the best we can be everyday. We talked about at the beginning of the year being a top team in the Centennial Conference and even the nation, but Coach Landry does a great job of keeping all of us focused on the next practice or next game, rather than a season-long goal.

 

FBI Makes Arrests in Illegal NCAA Basketball Recruiting

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Even just a skim through the player bios on the Swarthmore athletics website quickly reveals a common trend, not only applicable to Swarthmore but all of NCAA Division III athletics. In response to the question “Why Swarthmore?”, almost every student praises the college’s emphasis on high-level academics over athletics. This past week, an unfortunate revelation about a widespread fraudulent recruiting system in NCAA Division I men’s basketball proved each Swarthmore student’s point all the more.

According to CNN, following the arrest of 10 coaches, executives, and advisers, the FBI debriefed their investigations into two related schemes to illegally convince high-level recruits to attend certain universities. In one, athletic guidance advisers bribed assistant coaches at the University of Southern California, Oklahoma State University, Auburn University, and University of Arizona to persuade recruits to hire these same advisers. These advisers also participated in the second scheme with sports brand Adidas, paying out cash to recruits to commit to certain universities, including the University of Louisville and the respective universities of the aforementioned coaches. Given the prestige and perennial success of these programs, the situation carries far more than just legal weight, at least from an athletic standpoint.

Apart from the FBI investigation and subsequent charges of wire fraud, bribery, and conspiracy, the controversy has also tarnished the reputation of the basketball programs at the involved universities. All administrations and basketball programs have denied any involvement or knowledge of the fraud, fired the coaches involved, and continue to cooperate with authorities. Since many argued that the head coaches either had or should have had some awareness of the illegal actions, the scandal proved to be the last straw for legendary University of Louisville basketball head coach Rick Pitino’s famed tenure. With this fraud scandal under his authority as well as other scandals including a previous NCAA violation for hiring prostitutes for prospective recruits, both Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were placed on administrative leave, likely to be formally fired soon.

However, the greatest potential implication of this controversy has come out of the growing pressure on the NCAA to impose the “death penalty” on the University of Louisville’s basketball program. Although the “death penalty” has not been levied against any NCAA Division I program since SMU’s 1987 football season, the program’s current probation and culture of violating rules could merit the daunting punishment, which would indefinitely ban all men’s basketball operations and activities. With the school’s quick reaction and staff overhaul, this severe of a punishment seems unlikely; however, the program may not be able to escape its harrowed past. On top of that, the Louisville basketball program has been one of the most successful throughout history, particularly in recent memory. Therefore, the death penalty would not only punish the program, but greatly affect the finances of the entire institution. The implications of the charges go far beyond the legal framework and have the potential to affect entire schools.

At the same time, apart from the illegality of the men’s actions, there are also immense ethical implications of convincing recruits to attend academic institutions for reasons other than their individual suitability. Particularly at an academically-oriented school like Swarthmore, the athletics department thankfully does not have to face the same financial pressures. The ethical dilemma also adds to the ongoing debate over whether NCAA student athletes participating in billion-dollar industries should receive compensation apart from scholarships. Similarly, there are also debates taking place regarding whether collegiate level athletics have lost the true spirit of the game, and have instead focused too heavily on performance, profits, and creating professional athletes. Although this issue is unlikely to resolve the greater debates, it serves as just another example for the advocates of the student athlete’s cause.

In the end, the implications and legacy of this narrative are still being written in the impending decisions to be made by the NCAA and the Department of Justice. However, the whole situation has undoubtedly left a mark on far more than the legal records of a few individuals, impacting the reputations of coaches, brands, programs, and even whole universities. Unfortunately, in this situation it would appear the poor decisions of a few will have tremendous implications for many.

Men’s Basketball Blows Blue Jays Away

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For those of you who did not make it out to the men’s basketball game this Saturday, you missed out on a packed senior day filled with phenomenal basketball. As if a tribute to their seniors’ last home game, the Men’s Basketball team obliterated Johns Hopkins University by a final score of 70-48. Usually, basketball games come down to the last heated ten minutes, but on Saturday, due to the team’s peak performance in the first half and a continuing run of plays in the second half, the Swarthmore Garnet had this game locked down as it neared the final buzzer.

This game serves as proof for all of the hard work that the team has been putting in at practice, whether it be those seniors who only have a handful of games left, or the freshman who have quite a few seasons still ahead of them. The constant effort by all the players allowed this victory to not come as a complete shock, even considering their past history with Hopkins. For veteran players such as Michael Rubayo ’17, this was an unprecedented win on his senior night.

“We were not expecting to beat Hopkins by as much as we did, as I had never beaten them in my career here. But it did not surprise us either, we knew that when we play our best basketball, stick together as a team, and put together a strong 40 minutes, like we did on Saturday, we feel like we can play with anyone,” Rubayo said.

While this win had significance for the seniors on their big day and for the team in general to maintain that top conference spot, the players approached this game the same as they would every other. Cam Wiley ’19, the offensive star of the day, put up 25 points and cemented his status as four time player of the week in the Centennial Conference this season. He spoke to his team’s commitment all season to make these moments possible.

“Regardless of the opponent or the game, we work hard each day during practice so that we can continually improve and be our best for the upcoming competition,” Wiley said. “Every member of our team is all in for the next challenge, primarily focused on the game plan and supporting each other throughout. I believe this effort has contributed to our success this season.”

It seems clear that these players attribute this win to the effort of the team. This team displays a commitment to support each of its players including the first years, such as Zac O’Dell ’20. Although young, he has gotten his fair share of playing time, almost averaging 17 minutes a game. While obviously possessing some natural talent, he credits the role the upperclassmen have played for him as part of the reason for his successful season.

“As a freshman I would say I came into the year nervous, but after playing with these guys for months now, the nerves are pretty much gone. The older guys did a great job showing us freshman how things are done around here,” said O’Dell.

Contributions from all teammates left Hopkins struggling to score. Players such as Wiley and Zack Yonda ’18 had high scoring games, but numerous players were able to put up additional points for the Garnet. The constant offensive pressure was made possible by some remarkable defense, in particular, an overwhelming amount of rebounds. O’Dell, Nate Shafer ’20, and Robbie Walsh ’18 managed to snatch eight, seven, and five rebounds respectively. The highlights of the game such as Wiley’s unrelenting 3-pointers and Yonda’s tremendous block, were matched with an underlying tenacity and fight that made every minute enjoyable to watch. Needless to say, having a full audience did not intimidate these players very much.

“The fans provided us with energy for all forty minutes which is something we will need if we are to host the Centennial Championships in a few weeks,” said Rubayo.

Though the influx of students, parents and faculty could have caused the Garnet to fold, players, such as Wiley, managed to play up to the moment based on a strong foundation from practice.

“I attribute my coaches and our team preparation that put myself and others in the position to play well and together. However, I don’t believe the pressure of the game had any bearing on the outcome. My teammates and I have consistently worked hard this entire year for these moments in the season. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that we rose to the occasion, but rather sunk to the level of our training,” said Wiley

Hopkins leaving with a measly 32.7 shooting percentage showed just how strong our men’s basketball team’s level of training is. With only a few games left to decide who gets to host the Centennial Conference tournament, the players have a couple more opportunities to show off the hard work they have put in all season before heading into playoffs.

Men’s Basketball Continues to Rise in NCAA Top 25

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While most Swarthmore students went home and enjoyed their time away from the daily rigor of academics and school life, the Men’s Basketball team stayed put, recognizing the work ahead of them to continue their successful season. Although the team successfully led an unprecedented 22-8 campaign last year, their season ended somewhat bitterly with losses in both the Centennial Conference and ECAC Championships to rival Franklin & Marshall and Neumann respectively.

      With the end of the season came the tedious process of regrouping and rebuilding after losing three vital senior leaders. However, in an effort to avenge the loss, the team added key freshmen contributors, Nate Shafer ’20, Zac O’Dell ’20, Tyler Pasko ’20, and Josh Collin ’20, and set their sights on furthering the previous year’s success. Now leading a strong senior campaign, Sam Lebryk ’17, Chris Bourne ’17, Michael Rubayo ’17 and the rest of the Garnet have started the season off with an impressive 14-3 record. This run has not gone unnoticed too, as the NCAA has rewarded their strong showing, ranking them as highly as No. 16 at the national Division III level.

      After a strong 7-0 start to the season, the Garnet lost their first game as hosts of the Garnet Holiday Tournament to Rowan University in a brutal 92-84 nail biter. However, the team did not let the loss get them down and proceeded to win their next four games in a row, including a blowout win over a one-loss Catholic University squad 88-51. Particularly in the win over Catholic, the team exemplified its maturity, grit, and resilience — dominating the rebounding and points in the paint margins. This is to be expected, though, as Robbie Walsh ’18 has aided a concerted effort by the big men to lead the entire NCAA Division III level in rebound margin for much of the season.

      As O’Dell put it, “I think we have a nice balance of working hard and enjoying our experience along the way. Our guys do a great job of holding each other accountable at practice, in the weight room, and even off the court. It just makes everyone better.”

      The rebounding success, coupled with the skilled ball-handling and agility of point guard and points leader Cam Wiley ’19, has placed the Garnet in a position to succeed going forward. However, a truly successful team also has both camaraderie and a bit of luck. This spark showed through in the victory over Catholic, as three-point specialist Zack Yonda ’18 drained a half-court shot right before the first half buzzer. It looks like the Garnet have all of the tools to make a good run here in the postseason.

      O’Dell described the team’s philosophy going forward, saying “Our goal is just to get a little bit better every day.”

      Now in a strong position at the top the Centennial Conference standings with an 8-2 conference record, the Garnet seek to get back on the NCAA rankings after a few tough consecutive losses. The team will finish out the season with only Centennial conference games, and hopes to continue to ride this legacy of success for seasons to come.

Athlete of the Week: Cam Wiley ’19

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Over the past two weeks, Wiley has been on fire. His 15 ppg are good for 7th in the Centennial Conference, his 2.8 apg put him 13th in the Conference, and his 22 free-throws made are the best mark in the conference. More impressively, Wiley has been able to crack the leaderboard while coming off of the bench and averaging only 19 minutes per game. To put things in perspective, he is averaging 31.6 points per 40 minutes played — 5 points higher than the next best mark. With this type of production, perhaps Wiley may be getting some more minutes in the future.

MAX KASSAN: What do you like most about being a student athlete?

CAM WILEY: Having the ability to balance the schedule and demands of academics and athletics provides a foundation that will extend into the professional world and life after Swarthmore. Plus, I am fortunate to have some of the best teammates and coaches on campus that make it all the more enjoyable.

MK: What is your prospective major and what influenced you to pursue it?

CW: My prospective major is History with a Philosophy minor. I love writing and historical analysis. I plan to attend law school after graduation and ultimately decided on a major that will best prepare me for my studies post-Swarthmore.

MK: What is your favorite Swarthmore athletics memory?

CW: My favorite Swarthmore athletics memory was defeating Dickinson College 77-73 in the semi-finals of the Centennial Conference tournament, and thus competing for a chance to win the first Swarthmore basketball conference championship in history.

MK: How did your experience on the team last year prepare you for this one?

CW: I missed the early part of last season due to injury, and my initial recovery and return to play was a slow process. Nonetheless, our team’s success last season and our great experience abroad in August carried into this year.

MK: What’s your secret for hitting clutch free-throws late in the game?

CW: Coach Landry often reminds us that, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of occasion; you sink to the level of your training.” We begin and conclude every practice with time for free throw shooting, and it surely pays off.

Garnet men’s basketball prepares for season in Scandinavia

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Before the start of the semester, the Men’s Basketball team took a trip through Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, where they scrimmaged several local basketball teams. In addition to their games, the team also had the opportunity to explore Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki, and learn about the region’s culture.

   The team started their trip in Copenhagen, where they played a pair of games in two days. The first game was against Danish professional club BMK Wolfpack, who finished second in last year’s league standings. The Garnet won the game handily with a final score of 77-54. The following day, the team played Værløse BBK, which competes in the same division as BMK Wolfpack. The Garnet, again, dominated, winning this time by 30 points. After the game, the team was treated to a surprise by Værløse BBK – the club had organized dinner for the visiting Garnet.

     “After our second game in Copenhagen, the coach had it set up for them to bring in some dinner for us, and he had a projector set up, so our guys could watch the USA [Olympic] basketball game. They were in the semifinals at the time,” said Head Coach Kosmalski. The game marked the end of their time in Copenhagen and the team flew to Stockholm the next day. Kosmalski has a personal connection to the region and he was motivated to make the team’s time in Stockholm special.

      “When I played my first year in Sweden, I played for a team called 08 Alvik. 08 is the area code for Stockholm, and the club was called 08 Human Rights,” Kosmalski said. After his first year playing, the team separated into two clubs, Alvik BK and 08 Stockholm. Kosmalski continued to play for 08 Stockholm, and as a result, grew fond of Stockholm.

        “For me, having played in Stockholm, it’s a really special place,” recalled Kosmalski. “Being able to give our guys a subway pass, so they’re able to get out and do stuff on their own during the day and give them that freedom, and also get to experience what makes Stockholm really special, was good.” Kosmalski also mentioned his satisfaction with being able to give the team an experience abroad, noting the difficulty of studying abroad for athletes with winter seasons.

    “[The team] got to spend ten days abroad and experience different cultures, and I think that was really good for everyone,” said Kosmalski.

    While in Stockholm, the team brushed up against a part of Kosmalski’s past when they played Alvik BK, the aforementioned offshoot of his former club. Down at halftime, the Garnet played an impressive second half to win the game 83-59. The team played their fourth and final game of the trip the following day against AIK Basket. While the Garnet were unable to go undefeated throughout their trip, losing 71-63 against AIK, Coach Kosmalski was impressed by his team’s ability to respond to being in a tough situation.

     “We just didn’t really get a chance to take the lead at the end, but we cut it to one with about four or five minutes to go. We’d been down twenty in the first half,” said Kosmalski. There was also an age difference between the AIK and Garnet teams, which presented a challenge for Swarthmore due to what Kosmalski called the “physicality and savvy” of some of the older players on AIK. He also mentioned how the team had to adjust from NCAA to International Basketball Federation rules, which include differences such as playing for four quarters instead of two halves and a three-point line further from the rim. Overall, Kosmalski was pleased with his team’s attitude towards the challenges they faced, and said that he was grateful for the chance to face those challenges.

    “Being in an uncomfortable environment and facing some adversity was really good for us,” added Kosmalski. According to Kosmalski, the team looked prepared to compete from the first game abroad.

     He noted that “our guys came in really ready to play […] all of our returners played last year.” Coming off of a program-record 22-8 season in 2015-16, there are high expectations for the team this year. The team’s experience abroad this summer will surely be an asset in the upcoming season, with Kosmalski stating that “you never know what’ll happen as long as you stay positive and keep working together.”

      Swarthmore Men’s Basketball opens its 2016-17 season with a game against Penn State Abington on Tuesday, November 15th, at 8:00 PM in the Tarble Gymnasium.

Weekend Roundup

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Swim team honors seniors with win

This Saturday, the swim team had much on the line. Not only were the Gettysburg Bullets, the 2015 men’s and women’s Centennial Conference champion, coming to town, but it was also Senior Day. As a result, the team came in with a lot of energy and a lot to prove.

The men’s team lived up to the moment and found the best way possible to honor the six seniors — Riley Collins, Michael McVerry, Nikhil Paladugu, David Ranshous, Kurtis Swartz and Joshua Turek-Hurman — they won. With contributions from Jeffrey Tse ’19 who won the 100-yard backstroke and Chris Smith ’19 who won the 200-yard freestyle, the Garnet dethroned the 2015 champions and secured a 143-119 victory.

Though the women were not able to replicate the men’s positive result, the team battled with the reigning champion. Emily Bley ’19 won the 500-yard freestyle and Erica Flor ‘17 won the 100-yard backstroke. Though seniors Margaret Luo and Eva Winter had to leave Ware Pool on a losing note, they walk away with a lot to be proud of.

This Saturday, the team will travel to Dickinson for its second to last meet before the Conference tournament. This year, Conferences will be held at Gettysburg on February 19.

Men’s basketball stumbles before getting back to winning ways

The Garnet had a five-game win streak coming into Saturday’s matchup with Johns Hopkins university, along with the home-court advantage. Add that to the desire to make up for their loss against the Blue Jays earlier in the season — one of the Garnet’s few blemishes — and it seemed that the Garnet were in prime position to claim yet another victory. Unfortunately, they lost 62-53 in one of their more disappointing performances of the season.

A poor start to the game put the Garnet in a difficult position for later in the game. The team shot 17.1 percent and went into the half staring at a deficit of 13 points. Nonetheless, the team fought back and even managed to come within one point in the final two minutes of the game after a free throw from Robbie Walsh ’15. After that, however, the Garnet were unable to score and the Blue Jays ran with the lead en route to victory.

On Tuesday, the Garnet rebounded with a big win at home against Ursinus College, 83-64. Even though they did not lead until there was 7:33 left in the first half, the Garnet dominated the game. Four players scored in double-digits by the end, and the team as a whole improved, particularly in three-point shooting (52 percent).

Looking ahead, the Garnet, currently at second place in the conference with a record of 10-3 (16-4 overall) have a crucial matchup with conference leaders Franklin & Marshall on Saturday at home, where they will try to avenge their close loss from last month.

Despite losses, Jess Jowdy ’16 shines for women’s basketball

It was another tough week for the Garnet. The team, which is currently on a thirteen game losing streak, went 0-3, dropping its overall record to 3-17. Though it has been a season to forget for the Garnet, one of the lone bright spots has been the play of Jess Jowdy ’16. Over her past three games, Jowdy averaged 28.0 ppg, 4.0 apg and 9.3 rpg, bringing her season totals up to an astounding 17.2 ppg, 3.7 apg, 7.0 rpg. Her overall stellar performance earned her Co-Conference player of the Week (1/25-1/31) and put her in prime position for an All-Conference nomination.

        The Garnet head to Washington College (3-15, 0-12 CC) on Thursday, Feb. 4 and will face off against Bryn Mawr (3-14) next Wednesday, Feb. 10. Since both of the games are very winnable, expect another big performance from Jowdy and the rest of the Garnet squad.

Track & Field teams showcase skills during busy weekend

The track & field team had a busy weekend that consisted of two meets. The first was the Widener Invitational on Friday, followed by the McElligot Invitational at Haverford College on Saturday.

At the Widener Invitational, jumpers from both the men’s and women’s teams showed off their skills. From the men, Nolan Hofstee ’19 tied for first place in the high jump with a height of 1.67 meters, and also placed second in the triple jump. Hofstee’s classmates Greta Studier ’19 and Rachel Leifeld ’19 from the women’s team also participated in the high jump, coming out with a height of 1.47 meters.

The McElligot Invitational was much busier and featured many notable performances all around. From the women’s team, Sarah Neilsen ’16 participated in the 800-meter run and ran an ECAC D-III qualifying time of  2:20.85, good for second place overall. Jenn Beltran ’18 led the way for the team in the 400-meter dash, where she placed fourth with a time of 1:04.42. Kenzie Himelein-Wachowiak ’19 led the Garnet for the one-mile run, running it in 5:26.05.

From the men, Saadiq Garba ’19 also placed 4th in the 400 meter dash, missing third place by two one-hundredths of a second. John Gagnon ’17 placed fourth in the one-mile run and won his heat.

Next Saturday will be another full day for the teams, who will be attending both the Colden Invitational hosted by Ursinus College and the Villanova Invitational in Staten Island, NY.

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