Jumbos place 9th in NEICAAA Championships

Then-junior Tim Nichols races in the New England Div. III Indoor Championships on Feb. 20, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily Archives)

On Friday and Saturday, men’s track and field competed in the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association (NEICAAA) Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. The meet included teams across all athletic divisions, and the Jumbos faced tough competition. Overall, the team finished ninth out of 31 teams and had a number of its athletes qualify for the NCAA Championships.

The meet kicked off on Friday with some good showings from the Jumbos. Junior jumper Stefan Duvivier won the high jump, clearing a height of 2.10 meters and earning his fourth straight win in the event. His score ranks third nationally. Duvivier also set the new Tufts school record for the high jump, replacing the old record of 2.08 meters, which he set earlier this season. Senior tri-captain Luke O’Connor took third in the finals of the 5,000-meter run with a time of 14:52.11. O’Connor and Duvivier’s combined scores resulted in 16.2 points for Tufts on the day and put them in third place at the end of Friday. Unfortunately for the Jumbos, senior tri-captain sprinter Nick Usoff missed out on qualifying for the 400-meter finals by .001 seconds.

On Saturday, sophomore hurdler/jumper Josh Etkind finished seventh in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.29 seconds. He finished second in the preliminaries however, running a 8.16 time that broke Tufts’ school record and replaced the record of 8.25 he set last year. His time ranks him seventh nationally. The 4×400-meter relay team, composed of senior Usoff, junior hurdler Andrew DiMaiti, sophomore mid-distance runner Thomas Doyle and first-year long sprinter/long hurdler Billy Witrock finished fourth, improving on their season-best time with a 3:18.31 and scoring five points for the team. DiMaiti went on to place seventh in the 400-meter dash, adding two more points to the team’s total. First-year short sprinter Robert Jones garnered a point for the team in the 60-meter dash by running a time of 7.05 and placing eighth in the race. The 4×800 relay team, made up of junior mid-distance runner Tom DePalma, sophomore mid-distance runner Christian Swenson and first-year mid-distance runners Roman Lovell and Matthew D’Anieri, also earned a point with an eighth place time of 7:53.49.

The Jumbos ended the meet with a total of 27.2 points, finishing ninth out of the 31 teams competing at the event. This was the highest the Jumbos have placed in the NEICAAA Championships since before 2000. Northeastern won with a score of 177 points. Even though the Jumbos finished ninth, they finished third out of all the Div. III teams competing at the race, only losing out to Middlebury, which finished sixth with 33 points, and the Coast Guard Academy, which finished eighth with 27.5 points.

Senior tri-captain Tom Wang was happy with how the team competed against non-Div. III teams.

“Better competition will always be motivation to step it up, so it was fun to see our guys race other respectable athletes in other divisions,” Wang said. “At the same time, I don’t think this scared anyone or changed anything about how we prepared for this meet. We know we are good. We know we can compete amongst some of the best in New England.”

The Jumbos will host the Tufts Final Qualifying Meet on March 4 in Gantcher Center. This will be the Jumbos’ last chance to earn qualifying times for the NCAA Championships on March 10–11.

Currently, sophomore mid-distance runner Hiroto Watanabe, Nichols, O’Connor, Etkind and Duvivier have all qualified for nationals. Usoff thinks there are still some Jumbos who will be able to qualify, however.

“There are definitely a lot of people who are close [to qualifying],” Usoff said. “It just takes one good meet and we definitely have the advantage being on the home track, so we will try to utilize that. We’re pretty hopeful more guys can hit the mark.”

Wang also has high hopes for the Jumbos’ ability to qualify for nationals, especially the 4×400 relay team.

“[At the Final Qualifying Meet], the 4×400 will be a fresh ‘A’ team,” Wang said. “They are going to surprise some people. We also have a good group in several different event groups that are in the top 30 nationally who will be looking to make big moves this weekend.”