Miami track and field honors seniors, competes in last home meet of season

Fifth-year senior Debbie Ajagbe competes in the Women’s Hammer Throw at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational Meet at Cobb Stadium on April 8, 2022.
Fifth-year senior Debbie Ajagbe competes in the Women’s Hammer Throw at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational Meet at Cobb Stadium on April 8, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

For Miami’s seniors, this weekend’s Hurricane Alumni Invitational at Cobb Stadium marked their last-ever home meet. Joined by family, friends and coaches old and new, they lined the infield for a ceremony, putting on brave smiles that masked any bittersweet feelings.

“It’s definitely surreal…It hasn’t sinked it that this is the last time I’ll be competing on this field,” said senior Debbie Ajagbe, a Miami native who owns the program record in the discus. “This is definitely my track family, and they’ve been there for me through thick and thin, and I really appreciate all they’ve done to support me.”

Ajagbe made sure to make her last home meet count. On Friday, she placed fourth in the hammer throw with a mark of 59.59 meters, before winning the discus with a 55.41-meter hurl. Teammate Kristina Rakocevic was not far behind, taking third with a 50.45-meter throw.

Taylor Wright closed out the day for the women, leaping 1.73 meters in the high jump for fourth place.

For the men, who rank No. 12 in the USTFCCCA poll, senior Jeff Williams kicked off Friday’s action by placing third in the men’s discus with a mark of 51.76 meters. In the hammer throw, graduate student Decio Andrade could not quite match his NCAA-leading mark of 71.76 meters, but still finished third with a 69.76-meter throw.

Wrapping up the men’s events, Justin Forde and Isaiah Holmes both recorded 2.07 meters in the high jump.

Graduate student Isaiah Holmes competes in the Men’s High Jump at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational Meet at Cobb Stadium on April 8, 2022.
Graduate student Isaiah Holmes competes in the Men’s High Jump at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational Meet at Cobb Stadium on April 8, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Several Canes made the Miami record books on Saturday, with Russell Robinson and Ayman Zahafi leading the way.

On his first attempt in the triple jump, Robinson lunged an astounding 16.45 meters for an NCAA-leading mark and an improved program record, which he already held after a 16.23-meter jump at the Hurricane Invitational two weeks ago. Justin Forde also made history in the event, recording the second-farthest jump by a Hurricane with a 15.85-meter leap.

“I am really proud of Russell,” director of track and field and cross-country Amy Deem said. “I think we are having some really good performances but as we get through the season, we have to have a more collective group of better performances. I just thought we were a little complacent being at home. I didn’t get the performances that I had hoped for this weekend.”

In the shot put, Hannah Sophia-Hall and Jeff Williams both finished third. Hall threw 17.01 meters to improve her third-best program mark, while Williams’ 17.32-meter hurl boosted his fifth-best program mark.

On the track, Zahafi, who holds the third-best 800-meter time in program history, highlighted the day by improving upon that mark – as well as his fifth-best NCAA 800-meter time – by winning the event in 1:47.39.

“The race today got me more confident,” Zahafi said. “I’m trying to be prepared for [the ACC Championships], trying to be able to win … I feel pretty good, and I’m ready to go.”

Jacious Sears won the 100 meter in 11.44 seconds, before finishing third in the 200 meter with a time of 23.81.

Redshirt sophomore Daphnee Lavassas competes in the Women’s 1500m at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational Meet at Cobb Stadium on April 9, 2022
Redshirt sophomore Daphnee Lavassas competes in the Women’s 1500m at the Hurricane Alumni Invitational Meet at Cobb Stadium on April 9, 2022 Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Daphnee Lavassas and Justin Rittenhouse had stellar performances in the 1500 meter. Lavassas blazed past the competition, leading for the entire 4:26.42 minutes it took her to finish the event. Moments later, Rittenhouse set a personal best, crossing the finish line in 3:54.79 for third place.

Natalie Varela and Jalen Gordon each set personal bests in their events. Varela ran the 800 meter in 2:06.80, and Gordon sprinted the 400 meter in 48.70 seconds.

The Hurricanes have a week to rest before competing at the LSU Alumni Gold in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 23.

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