Over the weekend, the women’s track and field team traveled to Conn. College for the annual Silfen Invitational and looked dominant as it cruised to first place out of 19 teams at the event. The Tufts squad racked up 143.5 points over the two days of competition, handily beating out second-place Assumption College’s 95 points and appearing to be in strong shape to battle for a NESCAC title in just under two weeks.
On Saturday, when most of the action went down, senior quint-captains Alexis Harrison, Marilyn Allen and Mary Ellen Caruso led the way, while senior quint-captain Sydney Smith and a trio of sophomores competing in the 5000 meters highlighted the “Elite Distance Night” on Friday evening.
Saturday was a very windy day in New London, CT and the majority of competitions were run with a significant tailwind. Harrison demolished the competition in the 100 meters, running her second-fastest time of the season in 12.00 seconds flat, beating her next closest competitor by 0.44 seconds. Because she benefited from a 4.4 meters/second tailwind, which is above the Div. III legal wind speed cutoff of 4 meters/second, the time does not count for NCAA qualifying purposes. But Harrison’s legal 11.99 mark at Snowflake a few weeks ago is still fourth on the national qualifying list. She also anchored the 4x100m relay team to a second place finish and grabbed second in the long jump in 17 ft., 10.25 in.
“The wind was both a blessing and a curse,” first-year Paige Fielding told the Daily in an email. “The wind definitely helped push me and my teammates to the finish line in the 100 and 200, and it felt good for me to put up a PR in the 200. Unfortunately for races longer than the 200, I can imagine that fighting the wind on the first half of the track was a challenge.”
Marilyn Allen had an impressive day on the oval as well. She took the victory in the 100-meter hurdles in 14.83 seconds, just 0.02 seconds off her season’s best, finished in second place for the 4×100 meter relay team and took second in the 400-meter hurdles in 69.02 seconds. Her 14.81-second time in the 100-meter hurdles from Tufts’ spring break meet in Texas is currently tied for 22nd on the national qualifying list, just outside of the top 20 qualifying sports, so she will have to run a bit faster this season to cement her place at the NCAA Championships again. However, she will be in peak shape in the coming weeks as postseason competition and warmer weather roll in, giving her favorable odds of qualifying.
The women in the field, especially the throwers, also led the Jumbos on the day. Sophomore Amylee Anyoha took first in the hammer throw in a big PR performance, heaving the standard 151 ft., 3.25 in. The mark was over eight feet farther than her previous best and places her 47th in the nation and second in the NESCAC. If she can keep throwing PR after PR week after week, she could come out of the NESCAC Championships on April 30 as the champion. Her classmate Jen Sherwill also had a solid day, winning the discus with a PR of 123 ft., 4.5 inches to put herself fourth overall on the NESCAC list.
In the triple jump, Caruso grabbed third in the triple jump with a 34 ft., 8.5 in. leap while sophomore Annalisa DeBari grabbed fifth. Underclassmen got the job done in the pole vault, as sophomore Matea Fridel grabbed third in nine ft., 6.25 in., while first-year Sydney Ladner took fourth in nine ft., 0.25 in.
In the wind tunnel that was the 1500 meters, Smith rabbited sophomore Sara Stokesbury and junior Sam Cox through 1200 meters. Stokesbury grabbed 15th in 4:56.95 while Cox was 16th in 4:57.60, both impressive times given the high winds on the back stretch.
Many Jumbos were in action on Friday night for the Elite Distance Night. Billed as the “The Stanford of the East” (in reference to the Stanford Invitational, one of the nation’s largest competitions that draws many elite distance runners to the west coast), the invite hosted many top Div. III runners from across the northeast.
The 5000 meters was the event of the night for the Jumbos. Sophomores Eliza Lawless and Margot Rashba ran to huge PRs in the event, while classmate Brittany Bowman had a very impressive outdoor 5k opener. Lawless was tenth overall in 17:43.13 (a PR by 20 seconds), Bowman was 13th in 17:49.03 (an outdoor PR), and Rashba was 14th in 17:54.91 (a PR by 28 seconds). Cool temperatures and light wind helped them run very fast as all are within the top 20 in the NESCAC. Smith, meanwhile, got some speed work in, taking fourth in the 800 in 2:15.64.
“It felt awesome to break 18 [minutes], especially since it was my second 5k ever on the track,” Lawless said.
She spoke highly of Rashba, her training partner.
“Having Margot in the race was super helpful,” she said. “We have been training together for months and we just focused on putting what we’ve been doing in practice into the race,” she said. “She’s also great because she’s always positive and upbeat before races which really helps when you’re trying to get into the right frame of mind before the start.”
This season, the women’s distance team has seen notable success, as eight women have run under 18:30 for the 5k and seven have run under 5:00 for the 1500.
“I think [our success] is a reflection of the great coaching staff we have,” Lawless said. “Kristen and Heidi are really great and they really help motivate all of us. The team dynamic is just great too. We all push and motivate one another but in the best way possible. We all work hard but also have fun while we do it and I think that shows in our racing.”
“It was a great day,” Fielding added in an email to the Daily. “We saw some really good performances in each event group. With not everyone competing, Saturday set us up nicely for NESCACs, when everyone will be competing in peak shape.”
The Jumbos will have their final tune-up for the NESCAC Championships when they host the first annual Sunshine Classic at the Ellis Oval on Saturday. A few runners will also head down to Princeton on Friday night to compete in the Larry Ellis Invitational.
“Over the next two weeks, I think we really need to come together as a team united to become NESCAC champs,” Fielding told the Daily in an email. “We’ve been putting a lot of focus on supporting our teammates in different event groups, and I think this has helped us foster a team atmosphere in a very individual performance based sport.”
The Jumbos have looked strong this season and — if they can carry the momentum from this weekend’s win and replicate the performance — are poised to beat out the NESCAC’s other top team in the Williams Ephs at the conference championships on April 30 for their first title since 2013.