Over the long weekend, Tufts tied with other NESCAC rivals Middlebury and Bates for a third place finish at the New England Div. III Indoor Championships with 62 points each. The trio finished behind Williams with 140 points and MIT, who won at its home track with 149 points. Tufts’ third-place finish is its best at the meet since the 2013-14 season, when they also placed third.
The Jumbos gained most of their points over the weekend on a number of impressive relay finishes. They placed second in the 4×200 relay, third in both the 4×400 and 4×800 and fifth in the 4000 distance medley relay (DMR). The 4×200 relay run by first-year Alina Strileckis, senior quad-captain Rita Donohoe, sophomore Sydney Ladner and junior Annalisa DeBari ran a time of 1:46.80, which was the best time of the season for the Jumbos and 0.28 seconds behind relay winner Southern Maine. The Jumbos also had six different first-year runners competing in different legs of these relays, showing even more promise in the rookie class, which has been successful so far.
Junior distance runner Brittany Bowman highlighted how rare it is to have the level of depth and talent the Jumbos are enjoying this season.
“Relays proved to be important at Div. III last weekend. The four relays we raced in provided 24 points for our team,” Bowman told the Daily in an email. “We are able to find four girls who are good at the 200, 400 or 800 while some other teams might only have one or two girls. That depth certainly gives us the advantage at these postseason meets.”
Tufts’ best individual placements were a second place finish by first-year Julia Gake in the 600-meter and third place finishes by both Bowman and Cox in the 3000-meter and 1000-meter, respectively. DeBari finished fourth in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9.09 seconds, picking up five points for the Jumbos. Her time of 9.06 from the preliminaries ranked as the 24th best time in the nation for Div. III as of Tuesday afternoon.
Highlighting the field events, sophomore Brita Dawson placed eighth in the long jump at 5.25 meters. This finish both earned a point for Tufts and moved Dawson three spots above her 11th place seeding.
Bowman explained that athletes often approach the postseason meets with different mentalities and goals in mind.
“A lot of people went into this meet with place-orientated goals instead of time goals, but many still PRed and ran good times, or jumped or threw good marks,” Bowman wrote. “Annalisa DeBari had a great day for us, she ran a PR in the 60-meter hurdles and scored points. Sam Cox also had a great day PRing in the 1000 and scoring points.”
To meet those goals of scoring for the team and running individual qualifying times, the athletes often start a period of rest leading up to their meet. Before last weekend, Donohoe described how the team changes its practice style depending on the time of the season.
“The sprinters especially will stop lifting. Last week we only had one lift,” Donohoe said. “We will do a lot more sprinting, and distance too will do a lot more speed-oriented stuff and stuff that will make us less tired. So while we usually have like two hard workouts a week, around this time we will start doing one hard one and a day of more technical stuff.”
Up next, the Jumbos will compete at the All-New England Championship in Boston at the Reggie Lewis Center, starting at 12 p.m. on Friday. At this point in postseason action, however, individual competition, rather than team scoring, starts to become more important.
“We take All-New Englands next weekend as more of an individualized meet and less to do with the team,” Bowman said. “This meet has tougher qualifying standards so fewer kids are competing, mostly short sprints, distance and relays. Mostly people are competing to get the race experience in or to qualify for Nationals in three weeks.”