The Brandeis University track and field teams competed in their first event of the year at the University of Massachusetts-Boston Invitational on Saturday. Led by a rookie in her first college competition and a graduate student in his final year of National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility, the teams put together great performances, with major contributions coming from up and down the rosters. 

Mid-distance runner Lisbeth Valdez ’21 began both her season and her Brandeis career with an incredible run, winning her first race with a time of 2:27.10 in the 800-meter. Valdez is the first first-year to win in her debut of any Brandeis track athlete in recent history. Lisbeth’s twin sister, mid-distance runner Leinni Valdez ’21, also had an impressive day in her first collegiate competition, running both the 500-meter and the 200-meter races, and finishing second in the 500-meter with a time of 1:20.92. The women’s team also had great success in longer distance events, as distance runner and fellow first-year Niamh Kenney ’21 took third in the 3000-meter with a personal-best time of 10:58.34, while her teammate, distance runner Christine Minor ’19, crossed the finish line in fifth with a time of 11:10.2. 

While these events took place at UMass-Boston, a group of Brandeis distance runners also competed at Boston University. Success followed the Judges across the city. At BU, distance runner Doyin Ogundiran ’19 had the best time of all Division III runners, and third overall, in the 1000-meter event with a time of 2:59.18. This exceptional time qualified her for the Open New England Championship. In the 3000-meter run, distance runner Julia Bryson ’19 ran a time of 10:20.84, placing third among Division III athletes and 15th place overall. Finally, distance runner Emily Bryson ’19 ran the 5000-meter in 17:31.70, finishing 31st overall. 

The men’s team had a similarly successful Saturday. Sprinter, and graduate student Irie Gourde ’17 continued his tremendous success from last season, winning the 400 meter with a time of 49.88. After walking onto the team a year ago as a senior and making it all the way to the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in his first season, Gourde showed Saturday that more of the same looks to be on its way, as his time improved from his finish a year ago at this event. Sprinters Jack Allan ’20 and Patrick Quinlan ’21 also finished in the top five in their events, with Allan taking fifth with a time of 8.79 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles and Quinlan putting up a time of 51.18 seconds to take fifth in the 400-meter. Over in the triple jump, jumper Churchill Perry ’20 brought home an impressive second-place finish with a leap of 13.44 meters. Mid-distance runners Max Whitmore ’18 and Harper Pollio-Barbee ’21 both finished in the top five for the mile, with Whitmore coming in fourth through a time of 4:29.24 and Pollio-Barbee close on his heels to finish fifth with a time of 4:30.89. Finally, distance runner Ryan Stender ’18 was the fastest Division III runner at the BU competition, finishing 19th overall in the 5000-meter with a time of 14.38.96.

The Brandeis track and field teams have performed exceedingly well the past few seasons in this event, and this year continued that trend. More than that, this trek to the South Shore has consistently been a coming-out-party for the team’s rookies. 

A year ago Churchill and Gourde finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 400-meter, and the year before that Ogundiran won the 800-meter and Julia Bryson won the 3000-meter in their first collegiate meets for Brandeis. 

With this infusion of new talent on full display, the Judges will be in a great spot to continue the program’s success when they return from winter break. 

The teams’ next event will be the Reggie Poyau Memorial Invitation on Saturday, Jan. 13 where they will look to show off the immense potential of the Brandeis track and field program. Fans can look forward to intense competition.