–Tufts senior Audrey Gould, front, and junior Brittany Bowman compete in the Women's 5000 Meter race during the Final Qualifying Meet in Gantcher Center on March 4, 2016. (Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily)

Four runners compete at Boston University Invitational

Tufts sent four runners to the Boston University (BU) Opener on Saturday in their season opener. All four athletes ended with some of the top-ranked times in Div. III. Most met the requirements for postseason qualifications, a critical hurdle to clear so early in the season as it relieves the runners from additional qualifying race times later in the season.

Junior distance runner Brittany Bowman was second in her heat in the 5000-meter race on the BU banked track, finishing in 17:10.94, which converts to 17:18.88 on a normal track. Her race ranks as the fourth fastest so far this season among Div. III competitors as well as fourth fastest in Tufts history. 

“Bowman ran an incredible 5k … she ran a big PR [personal record] and it puts her up there in the nation,” senior quad-captain Sam Cox said.

Seniors Kelly Fahey and Lindsay Atkeson also competed in the 5000-meter race, posting times of 17:52.99 and 18:34.75 respectively, which converted to 18:01.26 and 18:43.3  the 13th and 29th best times in Div. III so far this season. Cox also competed for the Jumbos, running in the women’s 3000-meter. Cox set a PR time of 10:28.06, which converts to 10:33.47, placing her 11th in the nation.

“We did what we needed to do, which was to go out there and run a time to qualify us for postseason, so then we won’t have to worry about running the 5k in January and the first half of February before postseason,” Bowman said. “So we feel good that most of us got that time.”

Running the 5000-meter multiple times throughout a season can be draining on the body, putting runners at higher risk of injury and fatigue. Bowman and the other runners who met the qualifying time are now in the advantageous position of being able to put more energy into training, with an eye fixed more on postseason success than anything else.

“[Meeting the postseason cut] enables us to focus on training and getting good workouts without worrying about having to race often in the beginning of the season,” Bowman said.

This early success instills hope for a team that lost a competitive senior class last season and is coming off a very successful season just a year ago. Tufts graduated Alexis Harrison (LA ’16), one of the most successful members of all time for women’s track and field. An All-American, Harrison was twice named the Most Outstanding Performer at the NESCAC Championship meet; she also placed second in Div. III indoor championships for the 60-yard dash. The Jumbos also graduated two-time All-American Sydney Smith (LA ’16), who placed seventh at the Div. III outdoor championships in the 1500-meter. 

Tufts posted a third place finish in the NESCAC last season, finishing behind Williams, which won the NESCAC title for the third straight season and runner-up Middlebury. At the NESCAC Championships, Harrison won three individual events and was part of a winning relay. Marilyn Allen (LA ’16) also won an individual event, placing first in the 100-meter hurdles.

With 23 first-years on the roster this season, there will be a host of fresh talent, according to Cox.

“It is a very different team … but as far as the senior class goes and the captains go, we’re just trying to step up into our leadership roles and be the most effective leaders that we can,” Cox said. “And as far as talent goes, we have a lot of talent on the team and we have especially a lot of talent in the new [first-year] class, so it’s a team in transition right now.”

The seniors are preparing to take on the leadership roles that were vacated after last season, Cox said.

“I find that I have to hold myself to a higher standard than I did before, and I realized very recently that I have to always be thinking like a leader and like a captain,” Cox said. “Out of this season I really want to do my part to really bring the team together as a cohesive unit.”

The rest of the team will kick off its full indoor season on Jan. 14 at Tufts at the home opener Tufts Invitational.

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