Women sixth, men seventh at track championships

Kenyetta Givans set a Centennial Conference record in the 60-meter hurdles. (Courtesy of Swarthmore Athletics)

At last weekend’s Centennial Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships held at Ursinus College, both the men’s and women’s teams had their best showings in recent memory.

The men finished seventh overall, which was an improvement from last year’s ninth place result when they scored 10 points. This time around, the Garnet tripled its total to 30 points, its highest since they earned 47 in the 2005 indoor championships.

Tim Vaughn-Ogunlusi and the men’s team improved to seventh at the conference championships. (Courtesy of Swarthmore Athletics)

The lone medal winner for the men was Matthew Heck ’13, who earned silver in the 400-meter dash (50.35), finishing behind Muhlenberg’s Peter Rice, who set a meet record (49.43) and was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Track Performer. Heck also had a strong showing in the 200-meter dash (23.27), earning fifth place and collecting four points for the team.

“It’s my favorite race to run, but I’ve been injured the past two years and have never been able to run it very well,” Heck said, regarding the 400-meter dash. “To be able to compete how I did now was rewarding and really reflected how much hard work can pay off.”

Despite winning no other medals, the team came close, narrowly missing out on podium finishes in several other events.

In the 4×200-meter relay, the team of Heck, Jason Heo ’15, Tim Vaughan-Ogunlusi ’15 and Dan Ly ’12 came in fourth (1:34.41), beating the team from conference champion Haverford and posting the second fastest time in school history.

In the field, Ly ended his successful indoor season on a high note with a fourth place finish in the triple jump (13.36).

Also performing well was the distance medley relay team of Erick White ’15, Jonas Oppenheimer ’15, Richard Scott ’14 and Cariad Chester ’13, which finished fifth with a time of 8:18.24.

Although the women’s team matched its sixth place finish from last year’s indoor championships, it finished with 66 points, its highest total since earning 74 at the 2002 indoor championships.

Leading the way for the Garnet was Kenyetta Givans ’12, who earned a gold medal in the 60-meter hurdles and set a new Centennial Conference mark in the finals (8.95).

“I’m shocked that I broke the conference record,” Givans said. “That still is incomprehensible in my mind because it’s a record that’s more than Swarthmore, it’s a record that stands between 11 schools.”

Her time also earned her provisional qualification to the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Division III Championships, which will be held at Grinnell College from Mar. 9 to Mar. 10. For now, however, Givans must wait and see if she earns an invitation for the second consecutive season.

Givans also captured a bronze medal for her third place finish in the 200-meter dash. Her time of 26.67 was a personal record.

Earning the other gold medal for the women was the 4000-meter distance medley relay team of Ruth Talbot ’15, Stephanie Beebe ’12, Margaret Lenfest ’12 and Hannah Rose ’12 (12:40.05), which finished over five seconds ahead of the second place team from conference champion Johns Hopkins (12:45.28).

“It’s a really incredible feeling to run, pass on the baton, and then get to watch and cheer your teammates on as you win a race,” Talbot said. “I didn’t have a team in high school, so just learning what it’s like to go to meets with a support group and a sort of family has been a great experience.”

Distance runner Melissa Frick ’12 also had a strong showing for the Garnet at indoor championships. On her way to earning a silver medal in the 5000-meter run, Frick broke the 18-minute barrier for the second time this season (17:43.44), beating her previous personal best by over 14 seconds (17:57.73).

The only runner to beat Frick in the event was John Hopkins’ Hannah Eckstein ’15, who recently finished third in the 5K at the Penn State National Invite.

Rebecca Hammond ’12 also gave a solid effort at the championships, collecting two bronze medals: one in the 800-meter run (2:17.99) and another as part of the 4×800 relay team (9:44.97), a foursome that also included Frick, Beebe and Jen Johnson ’12.

Despite finishing in the bottom half of the conference at championships, both the men’s and women’s teams are pleased with last weekend’s results and eager for the outdoor season.

“Swarthmore is relatively small and we don’t place nearly as much importance on athletics that we do academics,” Heo explained. “That being said, I’d consider our talent level fairly high in comparison to the other teams in the conference.”

Givans elaborated, “Not to mention that most of the other teams in the conference are at least twice our size which gives them an advantage because they can use fresh athletes in most events. Once we rejuvenate ourselves after this season, we’re ready to leave it all on the track.”

The team will head down south to Florida for its annual spring break meet and training trip. The Garnet will resume local competition at the Widener University Danny Curran Invitational, held on Mar. 30 and Mar. 31.

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