Men’s track keeps rolling with win at home, national best time

Tufts junior Pietro Possenti prepares to pole vault at the Tufts Stampede meet on Jan. 30. Alex Knapp / The Tufts Daily

Another week, another streak of success for the men’s track and field team. The Jumbos participated in two events across town from each other this past weekend, with a contingent at the John Thomas Invitational at Boston University and the rest at home for the Tufts Stampede meet. The few Jumbos that ran at Boston University (BU) posted impressive times and several, including senior tri-captain Mitchell Black and sophomore Drew Dimaiti, were able to qualify for Div. III Nationals in March. In an even more impressive whole-team performance at the Tufts Stampede, the Jumbos placed first out of 15 as a team.

The sole race at the John Thomas Invitational on Friday was the distance medley relay. Tufts sent out a team comprised of DiMaiti, first-year Hiroto Watanabe and juniors Alex Apostolides and Luke O’Connor. The group’s time was 10:10.09 on BU’s banked track. Converted, the time is 10:18.39, which makes it the fastest Div. III time in the nation this season.

“It was pretty surprising to find out we had set that mark,” Watanabe said. “We didn’t think we had run our fastest times in terms of our ability, but is definitely a solid time, and we’re happy about it.”

The only four Jumbo runners who remained at BU on Saturday were Black, DiMaiti, O’Connor and senior James Traester. The four runners put up arguably the most impressive performances among the Div. III athletes competing and held their own against a field of Div. I runners.

Black posted a 4:09.77 in the mile to finish first in his heat and 24th out of 212 total runners in the event, already seeding him highly for Div. III nationals. Traester and O’Connor likewise put up fast times in the mile, finishing in 4:16.07 and 4:18.90, respectively. In the 400-meter, DiMaiti placed 35th out of 152 runners and first in his heat with a 49.15, also qualifying him for nationals.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Jumbos were competing at home in the Tufts Stampede on Saturday. Tufts took home its second win of the season, propelled by a slew of impressive performances from across all class years, leaving the team undefeated in the Gantcher Center so far this year. Senior sprinter Francis Goins was one of the standouts among the Jumbos on Saturday. Goins placed first in the 400-meter dash and second in the 200-meter dash but still took home first-place points in that event as first-place finisher David Campbell was an independent runner.

“[My performance] has got me excited, not just for myself but for the team,” Goins said. “Putting personal bests aside, there were a bunch of guys out there that had stellar days.”

Another big point contributor for the Jumbos was senior tri-captain Atticus Swett, who placed first in the shot put and eighth in the weight throw.

“Coming in first with such a commanding victory was definitely a good feeling for the team. It’s always a nice feeling to get the win, especially at home,” Swett said. “I would say that it was an okay meet for me individually. I had come off a pretty successful weekend up at Bowdoin and I was able to have another strong day in the shot put.”

The Jumbos also received significant production from their first-years, including Watanabe and Josh Etkind, who has garnered praise from both head coach Joel Williams and from his teammates. When Goins was asked to name one teammate who stood out this weekend, he pointed to Etkind.

“Josh has really stepped up in his freshman year, and he’s been killing it so far,” said Goins. “He’s starting to show that he’s not just a one-week athlete.”

Etkind finished first in the 60-meter hurdles and 15th in the long jump, putting his versatility on display. Sophomore teammate Linus Gordon was the winner in the long jump. Rounding out the list of Tufts’ event winners were senior Veer Bhalla–whose 1:20.29 was just 0.08 seconds off of the Tufts record–senior Michael Curley, with a 12-second victory in the 3000-meters, and Watanabe in the 800-meters.

The team will host another meet at the Gantcher Center this weekend when the Tufts Cupid Challenge kicks off on Saturday. The Jumbos look to continue their hot start to the season and hope that competing at home in front of a supportive crowd will continue to propel them.