Men’s track and field wrapped up the NCAA Championships on Saturday, finishing seventh overall with 20 points due to the efforts of co-captain Katakyie Ofori-Atta ’16, co-captain Bijan Mazaheri ’16 and Peter Hale ’17. The Ephs were the highest scoring team from the New England region.
Ofori-Atta competed in the 60 meter final on the second day of competition, taking seventh overall with a time of 6.93 seconds only a day after breaking his own school record. He also earned All-American honors for the first time in his collegiate career as he continued to build upon a series of strong finishes in postseason meets.
Mazaheri and Hale made the 3k very exciting to watch. The race went out fairly slow; nobody seemed to want the early lead but by a few minutes in, Hale had positioned himself in first. Mazaheri began a little more conservatively but was right behind Hale after a few laps. As the race progressed and the pace began to quicken, it appeared as if Hale and Mazaheri were going to be boxed in. Hale found an opening and seized it, moving to the lead pack in the closing laps. He powered his way into a tight group at the front and, in a very fast finish, took fourth overall with a time of 8:27.46.
This marks the first time in Hale’s collegiate track career that he earned All-American honors. Mazaheri pushed himself to the line and finished just outside All-American contention, taking ninth overall in 8:33.06.
The men’s strong performances on the second day of competition built upon a series of impressive races on the first day, which put the team in a tie for fourth place with 13 points.
The performance of Ofori-Atta in the 60 meter prelim was particularly noteworthy. After narrowly missing out on the last indoor season’s finals, he came back ready to give it his all, ultimately securing a new personal best.
The 5k featured the duo of Colin Cotton ’16 and Mazaheri. While Cotton had only raced once in the past two months, Mazaheri came in with a string of solid performances from throughout the course of the season.
The race went out fairly conservatively. Mazaheri stayed just behind the leaders while Cotton ran a little behind him. At three minutes in, Mazaheri rocketed to the front of the race and Cotton stayed close, settling in the top six.
While Mazaheri held the lead for the next several laps, Cotton jostled around for position near eighth place. At 11 minutes in, Mazaheri fell to second position, but Cotton moved up through the pack over the next minute. He started to reduce the gap in the closing laps and with just under 200 meters to go, sprinted by Mazaheri and the last lead pack into second place. Cotton held his position to the finish line, crossing in 14:24.41, good for eighth place. Mazaheri fought until the very end and took fourth place with a time of 14:25.44. Both men earned All-American honors and secured 13 total points for Williams in the race.
“We feel incredibly fortunate to have all four athletes who competed finish in the top eight and earn All-American honors,” Mazaheri said. “[Ofori-Atta] avenged his heartbreaking ninth place from last year by qualifying for the finals by less than .01 seconds.”
With the indoor track season wrapped up after NCAAs, the Ephs will start their outdoor season at the Aztec Invitational at San Diego State on March 24.