Track and field: Harmon strong at WU Invite

| Sports Editor

The outdoor track season may have just begun, but Washington University’s men’s and women’s squads are already on their way to earning spots at the NCAA Division III Championship meet.

At the Washington University Invitational April 2-3, the Bears hit six NCAA provisional marks. The weekend was highlighted by junior Ben Harmon’s automatic qualifying score of 6.741 in the decathlon. This will be the third consecutive year Harmon will compete at the national meet.

“I mainly just came in saying ‘all I need to do is just get the mark,’” Harmon said. “I knew I didn’t have to have a stellar day in any of the events, a bunch of mediocre performances would take that into account…it ended up being a lot of ups and downs but everything just kind of leveled out.”

Junior Dave Spandorfer, who took the top spot in the 5,000-meter run at the Washington University Invitational, runs alongside Sophomore Will Forrester at Francis Field.

Harmon was first among all competitors in the long jump, high jump and pole vault. His distance of 4.75 meters was a new personal record.

“[Qualifying] feels really good because now I don’t have to worry about running any specific times,” Harmon said. “I can go back and train for the next two months and gear up for the NCAA meet and conference meet.”

Two Bears eclipsed the NCAA provisional mark in the 5,000-meter run. Junior Dave Spandorfer took the top spot in 14:34.44 and sophomore Michael Burnstein was third with a time of 14:47.74. An additional ‘B’ cut came from sophomore Dan Davis’ third place finish in the 110-meter hurdles.

“Specifically on the guys’ side, we had some stud performances,” Head Coach Jeff Stiles said. “To have three guys that will most likely [qualify for NCAAs] on April 2 and 3 is a great statement.”

Once athletes reach an NCAA mark, training goals change. Meets are less focused on reaching specific time goals and more on preparation for conference and NCAA meets.

“Once they hit a time that’s either an automatic time or a provisional mark…the training changes in that you can be more aggressive,” Stiles said. “You can train specifically for nationals, so it’s a huge advantage.”

Stiles noted that competition level at the meet was high; even in third place, Davis beat the defending national champion in the 110 hurdles and several stadium records fell. The men’s team placed fourth of 25 teams while the women were second of 17 teams.

Two distance runners met the NCAA ‘B’ mark in women’s competition. Junior Jessica Londeree was second in the 5,000 while fellow junior Taryn Surtees also hit a provisional mark in the 10,000-meter race with a second-place time of 37:03.44.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever had an opportunity to go to nationals for an individual event,” Londeree said. “With the time I have right now I probably couldn’t make it with that time, but hopefully I’ll improve. It’s just really good to see the training pay off.”

Stiles noted that while the women’s team had fewer NCAA cuts, the Bears will look to achieve more marks this weekend at the Wheaton Twilight Meet.

“On the national level there’s no doubt that the guys’ weekend was more impactful, [but] this coming weekend we have the girls that have the capacity to hit some high level marks,” Stiles said.

The Bears travel to Wheaton on Saturday, April 10, for the all-day meet. Wash. U. will host the University Athletic Association Outdoor Championships the following week.

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