Over the weekend, Tufts hosted the annual Last Chance Meet at the Gantcher Center. This meet, which features competition from all across the country, gives athletes on the bubble one final shot at qualifying for the NCAA Div. III National Championships next weekend in Grinnell, Iowa.
Senior quad-captain Marilyn Allen far and away had the performance of the day. Last year, Allen qualified for the national championships in the 60-meter hurdles early in the season. However, this season she struggled to replicate her success from last year, getting tenths of a second off her PR in many races until the Div. III New England Championships, where she ran 0.06 off her PR. She had not qualified for the national championships, but that all changed on Friday.
Allen’s championship form returned during Last Chance, running a blazing 8.91 in the preliminaries then returning for the finals and racing to a huge PR of 8.84 seconds. After her huge race, she rose from not being in the top 15 nationally to hopping all the way up to 10th in the nation to punch her ticket to Iowa. Allen is now an outside favorite for an All-American title.
“I was really excited because not only was I able to qualify for nationals, but also I was able to break the 60-meter hurdles record every year since I’ve been at Tufts,” Allen said. “I think working on my start and speed in between hurdles during practice has helped, and I didn’t think about the time in this race. Instead, I thought about competing and the fact that the race could have possibly been my last indoor hurdle performance of my track career.”
However, her day was not over, and she followed her impressive race by matching her PR in the finals of the 60-meter dash, grabbing fourth overall in 8.11 seconds. First-year Sydney Ladner made the final of the 60, placing sixth in 8.41 seconds. In the prelims, she grabbed a new PR of 8.37 seconds.
“I think [running the 60 meter dash] helped me run well in the hurdles because I was running all the way up to the final,” Allen said. “I usually do my best when I have little time to cool down from the prelims.”
Other highlights of the day came from the sophomore class. Sophomore Brittany Bowman PR’d again in the 5,000 meters, running 17:30.84 for fifth overall, a 10-second improvement upon her old best. Her time ranks 24th nationally. Senior-quad captain Audrey Gould was right behind her, running 17:36.78 for 10th overall.
Sophomore Amylee Anyoha also had a very impressive day in the weight throw, emerging this season despite being a part of such a small throws crew. Coming into the season, Anyoha’s PR in the weight throw was 46 ft., 4 in. However, she made huge improvements this season, dropping PR after PR week by week. This past weekend, she had her biggest throw ever, heaving the standard 50 ft., 10 3/4 in. for fourth overall. If Anyoha can keep this momentum going in the outdoor season, she will be a strong scoring threat for the Jumbos at NESCACs.
In other action from the weekend, senior quad-captain Sydney Smith was seventh in the 800 meters in 2:16.67, junior Kelly Fahey was 13th in the 3000 meters in 10:21.90 and sophomore Annalisa DeBari was seventh in the 60-meter hurdles in 10.04 seconds. Smith used this race as a tune up and later learned that she was a national qualifier in the one mile run.
“The coaches and I were fairly confident that the mile would scratch down after looking at the lists,” Smith said. “You lose girls to the 800, 3k, 5k and DMR. We gambled on people picking their better event, and luckily, it paid off.”
Next weekend, a few Jumbos will take to the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreational and Athletic Center for the Div. III National Championships.
Senior quad-captain Alexis Harrison, who has been on a tear this season, will be taking on the nation in the 60-meter dash. Harrison, who has made huge improvements and has dropped massive PRs all winter, is currently tied for third in the nation in 7.63 seconds. Although senior Nia Joiner from Illinois Wesleyan University is the clear-cut favorite, coming in with a seed time 0.09 seconds faster than the next closest competitor, Harrison has an outside shot at a national championship. Regardless, she is a huge favorite for second, and an overwhelming favorite to be an All-American.
Allen will also go into the national championships looking to add the title of “All-American” to her resume. Last year, she just missed garnering All-American nods, placing ninth with an 8.92 second time, just missing the honor by 0.01 seconds.
Smith will be making her second appearance at a track national championship. Seeded at No. 13 in the mile, Smith was 10th in the 1,500 meter at last spring’s outdoor national championships, just missing All-American honors. In her final indoor season, Smith has a viable shot to run herself onto the podium.
“Last year’s races will definitely be in the back of my mind going into the weekend,” Smith said. “Having past experience at the national level definitely gives me much more confidence in my ability to contend for an All-American spot than I had last year.”
Last year, the Jumbos came home with no All-American titles. This year, they will hope to return to Medford with three.