NEW HAVEN, Conn. – This past Wednesday the Yale women's track and field team held its annual banquet to honor its athletes for another successful season. At this banquet, the team honors some of its finest athletes with three special awards: the Lee Calhoun Award, the James Stack Award and the Stroube Family Award. This year's list of recipients includes all three athletes that set Yale records, among other amazing accomplishments this season.
The Lee Calhoun Award is specifically bestowed upon a member of the track and field team who excels in either sprinting or hurdling events. It commemorates the memory of Calhoun: a former record holder and the winner of the 110-meter hurdles at two Olympics, he was Yale's head track coach from 1975-1980.
Without a doubt, Sydney Holmes earned this award with her unprecedentedly successful season in the hurdling events. Though just a freshman on the team, Holmes set herself apart by breaking the 60-meter hurdles record set by Mackenzie Mathews '16 over the winter season in dramatic fashion to qualify for the finals at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships, earning her All-East honors as well. Her time of 8.71s is one that she will look to build upon in the coming years. Holmes rode that success into an even more successful spring season, breaking Mathews's record in just her second meet of the season against Oxford and Cambridge. She would go on to lower her record on two other occasions, leaving the current record of 14.19s, as well as qualify for the finals of the 100m hurdles at the Outdoor Heptagonal Championship last week. It is worth noting that the record had stood for 15 years before Mathews broke it in 2013, further illustrating the impressive nature of Holmes' accomplishment.
The James Stack Award honors the memory of its namesake, an outstanding captain of the men's track and field team back in 1961. That year, Stack completed a sort of Yale track and field triple crown, an amazing trifecta of wins at the Harvard-Yale meet, the Heptagonal Championship and the IC4A Championship. The award named in his honor is given to the member of the team who best personifies Jim Stack's success as both a leader on the team and an athlete.
Though the team had many strong athletes this year, Frances Schmiede had arguably one of the most memorable seasons in Yale Track & Field history. This is her second consecutive year earning the award with somehow an even more impressive year than the past one. Though Schmiede did not compete at the ECACs, she placed first at both the Harvard-Yale and Heptagonal Championship meets. After opening up with a strong performance at Yale-Dartmouth-Columbia, Schmiede ran an audaciously fast time in the 1,000-meter run at Harvard-Yale-Princeton, breaking not only the 30-year Yale record, but also setting an Ivy League record at 2:44.10. And yet just two weeks later at her next meet, Schmiede would smash her old mile run record, running a time of 4:34.54 for an improvement of more than three seconds to qualify once again for the NCAA National Indoor Track & Field meet. She went on to earn both All-Ivy and All-American honors. For her final season on the team, Schmiede would once again set a record in the 1,500-meter run at 4:17.50, as well as earning her first title at the Outdoor Heps in that same event. This was in addition to wins at the Harvard-Yale and HY vs. OC meet. Yale's star middle-distance runner qualified for the NCAA Eastern Preliminary meet, with a very viable chance of competing at the national level for a third time. Needless to say, Schmiede is worthy of having earned the Stack award.
The Stroube Family Award is an accolade that recognizes that the true success of the track and field team as a whole stems not only from individual successes, but also from the team's ability to function as a cohesive unit. This award honors the important leaders on the team that make this possible by acknowledging an outstanding member of the team who excels in sportsmanship, courage, and inspiration.
This year's award went to senior Meredith Rizzo. She had quite the renaissance season, improving in every single event this past year. After a few strong performances earlier in the season, Rizzo would go on to run one of the fastest mile times in Yale history, third only to Schmiede and previous record holder and Kate Grace '11. At 4:43.51, her time definitely helped propel her to a second-place finish in the mile run at the Heptagonal Championships, earning her All-Ivy honors. She would then open up her final outdoor season with a new personal best time in the 1,500-meter run at 4:24.87 at the Raleigh Relays. Yet the real highlight of her senior campaign came in the height of the season, when Rizzo broke the 3,000-meter steeplechase record in just her third time ever competing in the event, and second time this year. At 10:07.93, her time is also among the top 20 times run in the country this year. Rizzo would go on to finish third at Heps, and to contribute an impressive anchor leg of about 2:09.38 to the second-place 4x800-meter relay. She will look to qualify for the NCAA National Championships at next week's Eastern Preliminary meet in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Report by Ariel A. Sánchez '19, Yale Sports Publicity.