Tufts traveled to Conn. College on Saturday to race for the 2015 NCAA New England Region Championship. Fifty-fiveteams and 380 runners competed at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, Conn. Tufts recorded its best finish since 2007, finishing third behind Williams and Amherst, who took first and second, respectively. Williams scored a 67, Amherst was right behind with a 68, Tufts finished with an 80 and Wesleyan and MIT rounded out the top five with scores of 114 and 128, respectively. Both the Ephs and the Lord Jeffs received automatic berths to the National Championship meet.
Tufts had to wait until Sunday to hear whether or not it would receive a bid but was eventually named as one of just 16 teams with at-large bids to travel to the NCAA Championship on Saturday, Nov. 21 in Winneconne, Wis. This will be the sixth straight showing at Nationals for the team.
“I feel ecstatic about how the team finished,” junior Tim Nichols said. “We were the closest to Amherst and Williams that we have been all season, and our team finish was one of the highest that we’ve seen at the New England Regionals in recent memory. It was also really special to me to see everyone on the team make huge jumps forward in just the past few weeks.”
Junior Luke O’Connor was the top performer for Tufts. O’Connor ran a 24:43.7 race, which placed him at third overall behind Williams senior Bijan Mazaheri (24:42) and Amherst sophomore Mohamed Hussein (24:39.8). O’Connor’s finish was the highest that any Tufts male has placed at the regional race since 2011 when Matt Rand (LA ’13) placed third.
“I was really proud to see my teammate Luke push the pace up in the front of the race after mile three,” Nichols said. “He was really in the mix with the leaders, and that was really inspiring to see.”
Nichols also made waves with his individual performance, coming in sixth place with a time of 24:55.1. That performance earned Nichols an All-New England honor and his second straight top 10 regionals finish.
“It’s an honor to have such hard working teammates who give it their all for the program,” first-year Hiroto Watanabe said. “The seniors are great leaders, and the team as a whole is a cohesive group of strong runners.”
Other highlights include performances by sophomore Ty Enos (25:21.5, 18th overall), senior co-captain Michael Curley (25:23.3, 20th overall), first-year Christian Swenson (25:35.7, 33rd overall) and senior co-captain James Traester (25:48.7, 45th overall).
“Next up is Nationals in Wisconsin,” Nichols said. “I’m really excited at [our chances of] finishing in the top 35 competitors there.”
After Nationals, the team will start the offseason and begin looking forward to its 2016 season.
“Next season, I’m just really looking forward to the team growing closer,” Nichols said. “[It] has been truly touching [this year] seeing everyone grow a little bit at a time and watching friendships appear within the incoming class and with the returners, [and] I can’t wait to welcome the next class to the team.”
In 2016, Nichols and O’Connor, in addition to other notable sophomore and junior runners, will return to the squad.
“Next year will be an exciting year with a lot of talent returning, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how we improve in comparison to this already outstanding season,” Watanabe said.
The most pertinent task right now for the Jumbos, however, is to improve on their strong showing at regionals and impress at the National Championship this weekend.