The Wellesley College Track and Field team continued to set new standards at the NIECAAA New England Indoor Championships at Boston University last Friday and Saturday, breaking school records in the 5,000 meter, 400 meter and 4×400 meter events. The 2015 team has rewritten the record books this winter, and last weekend’s performance did it on a big stage.
Isabella Narvaez ’17 kicked off Friday night’s events by extending her breakout season, besting her own school record in the 400 meter dash for the second time this winter with a time of 58.32 for a 20th place finish. The standout sprinter also holds Blue records in the 60 meter dash. Joining Narvaez in the Wellesley archives was Taylor Bickford ’15, who claimed the 5,000 meter record with a seventh place finish to earn All-New England honors. The senior finished the 5K event with a time of 17:33.92, followed closely by teammate Mary Keenan ’17 in tenth place at 17:43.09.
“It was a surreal experience breaking the school record. It was never even on my radar,” Bickford said. “My first year there was a senior on the team who I really looked up to and seemed untouchable as far as the times she was running. So when I broke the record, it carried even more weight in that I could put it in the context of this individual who I had placed on this pedestal for four years.”
For Bickford, who also runs cross-country for Wellesley, the 5,000 meter event allows for a more dynamic race that is unique to long distances.
“ I suppose in indoor track, the 5K is about as long and slow as you can get, and in the end, that’s why I like it. I like the steady rhythm and the mental game — things that are lost in short races where you don’t have time to strategize because it is all-out from the moment the gun goes off.”
The other member of the Blue to earn All-New England recognition was Sharon Ng ’16, who took 8th place in the 1,000 meter run on Saturday. Ng finished the event with a time of 2:55.20, falling just shy of another Wellesley record.
The Blue capped off Saturday’s events with an exciting and historic performance in the 4×400 meter relay, taking 16th place overall and dusting the previous school record by nine seconds. Seniors Kendra Waters and Kathleen Hanlon were joined by Ng and Narvaez in the event to combine for a time of 3:56.27. Saturday’s race was the group’s first run together this season, and the event presented a do-or-die situation for Waters and Hanlon, who, depending on the outcome, faced the potential of the last indoor relay race of their collegiate careers.
“I was running second, and started my 400 behind the four other teams in our heat. I knew my job was to get us ahead of as many teams as I could, and that definitely helped push me to run faster than I would in an individual race,” Waters said.
Waters made up the ground in her 400 meter leg, clocking the second fastest split on the team at 58.4 and handing the baton to Narvaez, who took off in the third leg with a split time of 56.4. The rest was left up to anchor Kathleen Hanlon.
“When Kathleen crossed at her 200, with only a 200 left in the race, I knew we were going to go at least under four minutes. She had plenty of time to run a 200, but when she came across at 3:56, we were all so excited. We all immediately went to see our coach and she almost shed a tear she was so amazed and proud,” Waters said.
For Ng, Narvaez, Waters and Hanlon, who each also excel in individual events, the team component of the 4×400 meter relay has a special significance that translates to their performance.
“I love the 4×400 because it turns an individual sport into a team sport,” Hanlon said. “You don’t just run for yourself. I am the last leg, so I run for the three other women who just ran their hearts out to get the baton to me. I find, and I believe this is true for some of my other teammates, that I can run faster in a relay than in an individual race. It’s the extra motivation. In turn, this gives me the confidence to run faster in my individual races, and the cycle continues.”
The 4×400 relay team will join several other members of Wellesley track & field next weekend to compete at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Indoor championships in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Wellesley College
Anna Cahill ’18 is the Sports & Wellness Editor who is pursuing a major in Physics. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Seinfeld and playing basketball. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.