The men’s track and field team had its eye on a fourth consecutive NESCAC championship this season, but in a surprising turn of events, lost the NESCAC crown to Williams. The championship meet on April 30 at Amherst saw Williams finish with 207 points, ahead of Tufts’ 182 score. Still, the second-place finish in the NESCAC doesn’t diminish what has been an impressive 2016 campaign for the Jumbos.
Rising senior Luke O’Connor won the 3,000-meter steeplechase for the second straight year. His 9:12.08 time was a full 10 seconds ahead of second place.
“I don’t feel there was anything I could have done to score [higher] last Saturday,” O’Connor said. “It may not have been the result that the team was looking for, but the guys really put it on the line and gave it all we had.”
Graduating senior tri-captain Mitchell Black did not disappoint at NESCACs, pacing the Jumbos with two of the team’s six wins, taking first in the 800 and the 1,500. Black is not only an All-American and three-time NCAA champion, but his 1:48.60 time in the 800-meter from earlier this season is ranked first nationally. Classmate Veer Bhalla was close behind Black’s 1:51.36 time in the 800 meter race with a 1:51:71 time for the 1-2 Tufts finish.
“I ran a personal best in the 800 for the first time in a while and I couldn’t be happier,” Bhalla said. “I was also proud of our team’s performance. We may have lost to Williams, but it was not due to a lack of performance on our part. We really stepped up and had an almost perfect meet.”
The Tufts 4×100-meter relay team of rising junior Peter Clark, graduating senior Bryson Hoover-Hankerson, as well as rising sophomores Thomas Miller and Anthony Kardonsky, finished first with a time of 41.61 seconds, good for 13th nationally.
“I was incredibly proud of our team’s performance at the meet,” Miller said. “Every member of the team gave it their all, and at the end of the day, that’s all we could really ask for … By being able to get the baton around quicker we were able to show that we are a team that can be competitive at a national level.”
Other standout performances at the NESCACs included Hoover-Hankerson winning the long jump with a 7.04 meter leap and rising junior Stefan Duvivier winning the high jump, tying his season record with a 1.98 meter jump.
“It’s hard to be too down about the loss because so many people raced their hearts out,” graduating senior Alex Kasemir said.
Overall, the season was highly successful, with the Jumbos winning the April 23 Sunshine Classic, the April 15 to 16 Silfen Invitational at Conn. College and the Jan. 16 Tufts Invitational, while also racking up some of the best individual marks in the nation. The team impressively finished sixth overall at the All-New England Championship Meet, where Division I, II and III teams compete. Tufts was second when it came to DIII, finishing behind only MIT.
Black was named the NESCAC Track Performer of the Week and USTFCCCA Men’s Div. III National Athlete of the Week, after clocking his nation-leading 1:48.60 time in the 800-meter at the April 22 Larry Ellis Invitational. His finish stands as the ninth fastest in Div. III history.
Bhalla finished in eighth in that same race and Tufts finished 21st in the NCAAs.
The April 2 Tufts Snowflake Classic kicked off the outdoor season and Tufts was able to take third out of 16 teams, despite the majority of the team resting. The following weekend at the Sam Howell Invitational at Princeton University saw rising senior Tim Nichols running the 10,000-meter in 30:12.19 minutes — the second fastest time in Div. III at the time — for which he was honored with the NESCAC Men’s Track Performer of the Week.
At the Silfen Invitational, Miller posted a 10.86 time in the 100-meter dash. That time set the new school outdoor record, breaking the previous record of 10.90 seconds, set by both Daniel Lange Vagle in 2013 and Phil Rotella in 2009.
“Our senior class is full of extremely talented athletes and it will be sad to see them go, but I am thankful to have had them to help me through my own rookie season,” Miller said.
The team finished 15th at the New England DIII Championships on May 7. While some on the team, like Black and Clark, are guaranteed to go to the NCAA Championships on May 26 to 28, others are still waiting.
“[The season] was a mixed bag … some guys killed it all season and improved,” O’Connor said. “Then there are those who may not have done as well as they would have liked to individually, but competing for the team and its success has given them solace.”
The strong rising sophomore and junior classes will pave the way for the team in the upcoming seasons. The goal for the 2016-17 campaign? Win back the NESCAC crown from Williams.