Gävle, Sweden – Rising Yale junior Ekrem Ayhan has broken the U23 Turkish National Record in the 4x400 meter relay. The star sprinter, who received the James Stack Award at this year's Yale track and field banquet, ran the third leg of the relay at the U23 European Championships at Gavlestadion in Sweden this weekend.
This completes what has easily been Ayhan's best season yet. To qualify for the championships he ran 21.47s in the 200m, which resulted in the Turkish national coach contacting him and asking if he wanted to compete. He then ran 47.85 in the 400m, and received another call, this time telling him that there was a chance the 4x400m record could be broken, and as such he would only be running the relay.
Ayhan said that he spent most of the beginning of the summer training for the competition: immediately after competing in the HYOC meet, he was flown out to Ankara for a six-day training camp and grilled by the other team members on life at college in the states.
From Ankara Ayhan was flown to Sweden with the rest of the national team three days before his event.
The race, he said, "was an experience like no other. The competition was incredible and this forced the best out of everyone. There is truly no feeling like representing your country on the international stage. We ran 3:09.66 and broke the U23 national record by over 1 second."
This was a truly incredible achievement, and one that Ayhan's stellar third leg of 47.05 seconds contributed to greatly.
Understandably, once the race was finished Ayhan was "ready to finally finish the season", which has lasted eight months for him. And what better way to finish than being congratulated by the President of Turkish Athletics and being treated to a banquet with the rest of the athletes.
Ayhan reflects that he felt privileged after discussing life as an NCAA Division I athlete with so many competitors who dream of the experience. Moreover, though he is now taking some much needed rest, he is already looking to the future -- specifically, the Tokyo Olympics next summer. A time of 46.70 seconds in the 400m will put him in good standing to be part of the national relay team, he has been told by the Turkish Sprints Coordinator. With the greatest sporting prize in touching distance, one feels sure Ayhan will build upon this "experience of a lifetime" and lead the Bulldogs to new heights next season.
Report by Harrison Smith '23, Yale Sports Publicity