Branch and Jacobs lead the Leopards at the IC4A/ECAC Championships

Both the men’s and women’s teams sent three athletes to the event. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications).

The Lafayette track and field team finished their season this past weekend at the IC4A/ECAC Championships in Springfield, Mass, where senior Ainsley Jacobs earned All-East status with a fourth place finish in the 10,000-meter run. Both the men’s and women’s teams sent three athletes to the event.

Jacobs completed the 10,000-meter run in 36:15.16 and was the top finisher on the women’s side for the Leopards, earning five points for her performance. The meet capped a remarkable spring season that saw Jacobs break an 18-year-old record in the 5,000-meter run, and then break it again a few weeks later.

Also for the women, sophomore Rachel Hurley competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and finished 11th with a time of 11:47.23. 

In field events, senior Olivia Barney finished 13th in the hammer throw with a top mark of 48.13 meters. Like Jacobs, this spring has seen Barney take on a major role in the team’s scoring: at one meet in April, she recorded over half of the team’s points across three different events, placing in the top-five in the discus, shot put and hammer throw.

The men’s team also sent three athletes to the final meet, including senior Ryan Branch who placed 10th in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:00.04. Branch is no stranger to top finishes in the event, as he recently shattered the Lafayette All-Time record in the 5,000-meter run at the Patriot League Championships. The record stood for 36 years.

“I’m going to miss all the little things about being on a team,” Branch said. “Nothing beats cheering your teammates on, watching your teammates do well, and getting hugged by your teammates after a race. It’s those moments I’ll miss the most. All the moments of laughter in hotels or out at restaurants too. Running with them every day has given me memories that will last a lifetime.”

The Leopards had two other runners that competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase: Senior Michael Neeson finished in 12th place with a time of 9:24.67, while junior Austin Barry finished shortly after him in 20th place with a time of 9:39.29. 

With their season coming to a close, the team reflected on the way they handled this unique pandemic season – with a system built on accountability and trust, in order to stay safe and give themselves the best chance at having a full and successful season. 

“We were lucky this season to really avoid any major virus outbreaks amongst the team,” Branch said. “To be successful, we just held everyone accountable and trusted they’d put in the work on their own or with their roommates. At one point we couldn’t even talk with our coach about workouts, so we just devised our own workout plans as a team.”

After a number of track athletes were kicked off campus in January due to alleged violations of COVID-19 school policy, the team remained resilient despite a roster that was marred by the virus.

“Adjusting on the fly to the unexpected was certainly key and allowed us to compete this season,” Branch said.

The team now heads into the offseason with summer training and improvement in mind, before a fall season that should consist of some more normalcy.

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