Six Columbia University student-athletes, four of them recent graduates, are getting to spend a bit more time roaming the Morningside Heights campus and nearby Harlem. Last weekend, these athletes aced the competition at the NCAA Preliminary Championships in Tampa, Fla.
Heading to Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Track & Field Finals, which begin June 6, are 1,500-meter runner Sarah Hardie, 3,000-meter Steeplechase runner Nell Crosby and the 4x400 relay team of Iman Sule, Terri Turner, Sydney Petersen and Akua Obeng-Akrofi. Obeng-Akrofi also qualified in the individual 400 meters.
It is a second trip to the NCAA Finals for Crosby, who joined Columbia’s track team as a walk-on and just took up the Steeplechase last year. The coaches steered her to that event for her strength and stamina.
“As a walk-on on this team, I feel really thankful that I’ve even had the opportunity to run for Columbia at all,” said Crosby. “It’s so randomly been the perfect team and coaching environment for me, and it’s actually made saying goodbye to Columbia so much harder than I ever thought it would have been. It’s really nice to have two more weeks to bask in this amazing experience.”
This trip will be a first to the NCAA outdoor finals for Hardie, who previously qualified for the indoor finals in the mile.
“It’s nice to have all the hard work pay off,” said Hardie, who has been on the track team since her freshman year. “[Track] gave me a family and a group of people where our friendship was so much more than going out or studying. It was a whole new level of love that I have for such a diverse group of people. It’s given me an amazing opportunity to meet incredible people.”
For Hardie, next week will probably mark the end of competitive running. She said track showed her how important it is to be mentally tough. Crosby has one more year of collegiate eligibility, which she will use to pursue graduate studies in physiology. As the Ivy League doesn’t have athletic scholarships, she is weighing options to attend two major research universities that will give her an athletic scholarship.
Columbia will have some Ivy League company in Eugene. Princeton University freshman Obiageri Amaechi qualified for the NCAA Finals in the discus.