Jumbos place fifth at USATF New England Championship

Haley Barthel, '20, sprints to the finish line at the Connecticut College Cross Country Invitational at Harkness Memorial State Park on Saturday, Oct. 15. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

While the top 10 runners for the women’s cross country team rested and continued to prepare for the NCAA Regional Championships on Nov. 12, the rest of the team took to the course this past Sunday at the USA Track and Field Cross Country (USATF) championships, held in sunny Franklin Park, Boston.

The Jumbos placed fifth out of a field of 13 teams in the six-kilometer race. Three post-collegiate club teams ended up beating out Tufts: the Battle Road Track club, The Heartbreakers and Greater Boston TC. Williams was the only other NESCAC team to compete, and it placed fourth with 117 points while also fielding members of its team not racing at the NCAA regionals.

Post-collegiate track clubs, comprised of former NCAA runners who are still competing at an elite level, impacted the race for the Tufts runners, according to coach Kristen Morwick. She said the fast pace of the club team runners pushed the Jumbos to exert too much stamina too quickly at the start of the race. The top finisher raced a 5:05 mile, while the average mile for the Tufts team was more than 6 minutes.

“I think if we could change that [fast-paced start], our athletes would have had more left for later in the race,” Morwick told the Daily in an email. “Going out so hard [at the start of the race] sometimes zaps you for the finish.”

The top finishing team for the race, the Battle Road Track club, had all five of its top finishers within the top 10 (excluding unattached runners). In comparison, the top collegiate runner, Williams first-year Anna Passannante, placed 14th. 

The Tufts team finished with a total of 190 points and an average time of 23:56.80 for its seven runners who placed.

First-year Haley Barthel led Tufts for the first time this season, finishing in 32nd place in 23:30. Her teammates, first-year Nicole Kerrigan (23:31) and junior Margot Rashba (23:39), finished in 34th and 36th place respectively, demonstrating the Jumbos’ pack running strategy, which Rashba believed strongly improved in this race.

“[The race] was good because the top three of me and two of the freshmen worked really well together throughout the entire race,” Rashba said. “We had a pretty good pack, which was really nice. I think we all worked together well, considering we had to go [over] the hill twice too and communicated well, which is something our group has had trouble with in the past, and we did that much more effectively in this race.”

Rounding out Tufts’ finishers were junior Danielle Skufca in 43rd, sophomore Sarah Perkins crossing 45th, first-year Lydia Heely placing 46th and first-year Lauren Diaz finishing 49th. The first-years, particularly Barthel, Kerrigan, Heely and Diaz, raced well, especially since several of them had never raced the course before, which made it even more difficult to run, according to Morwick.

Another important aspect of the race was that it allowed several members of the Tufts team who would not be competing at NCAA regionals one last chance to run a race with the rest of the team. Senior tri-captain Sarah Corning and senior Meredith Reynolds ran their last races with the team this past Sunday.

Coming up this Saturday are the NCAA Regional Championships, held at Westfield State University. Morwick believes that her team has a good chance at finishing in third, as the only higher NCAA ranked teams present will be No. 2 MIT and No. 5 Williams. Tufts is ranked sixth nationally.