Tufts heads into NESCAC Championships as favorites

On Oct. 31, both the Tufts men’s and women’s cross-country teams will compete in the NESCAC Championship hosted at Wesleyan University. The NESCAC Championships mark the start of the postseason and also serve as a preview for the all-important Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships and the NCAA Regional Championships, which will take place on Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, respectively.

The men’s cross-country team has had a successful season, which first-year Dylan Jones credits in part to the team’s top seven runners.

“Our top seven has been training really hard all season which has established a solid base for the team, [and] they’ve really led us to a great regular season,” Jones said. “We have a lot of guys who were really great runners in past seasons, and they’ve progressed even more so I really feel confident about this group.”

Jones and first-year Christian Swenson both felt confident about the team’s chances heading into Saturday.

“All season we’ve tried our hardest, and we’ve gotten better as the season [has] progressed,” Swenson said.

A big reason for the team’s success this season has been coach Michael Schmidt’s leadership.

“Schmidt has given us a lot of optimism and really believes in us,” Jones said. “That certainly helps us run better, knowing that he thinks we are a special year and that we have a chance at beating anyone.”

Competing against other NESCAC schools gives the team an opportunity to see how it stacks up against the competition before the NCAA Regional Championships. The highest ranking teams competing at the Regional Championships all come from the NESCAC conference, with the notable exception of MIT.

The women’s cross-country team have also had an impressive season. The team finished in first place at the Bates Invitational on Sept. 19 and then followed that up with another first place finish out of 12 teams in the Codfish Bowl at Franklin Park on Sept. 26. On Oct. 2, the Jumbos claimed 16th place out of 35 teams at the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University, in which Div. I, Div II and Div. III teams competed. The women capped their regular season with a second place finish out of 25 teams at the Connecticut College Invitational on Oct. 17.

“This season has been exciting,” junior Sam Cox said. “A lot of people are finally getting closer to or even reaching their [full] potential as runners and that [means] big things for our team. We’ve been performing better than we expected.”

Due to their strong performances in the regular season races, the Jumbos are considered favorites for the NESCAC Championships, though Cox said the team has remained humble.

“It’s nice to get some attention for sure, but we’re just keeping our eyes on our team goals and trying to not get distracted by any sort of hype,” she said. “We are an incredibly solid team, and I firmly believe that we can do really well at this meet.”

In last year’s race, the women did not quite meet expectations. They entered as one of the favorites but finished in fifth place out of 11, a worse result than they had anticipated.

“Last year’s race was tough for sure, but the team knows that this year will be different by a long shot,” Cox said. “We’re not worried … New year, new course, new race. I’m really proud of what my team has accomplished this season, and I know we have a lot more in store. We work so hard, and we’re ready to make our school proud.”