Jumbos kick off outdoor season in sweltering Vegas

First-year Gia Kim competes in the second 4,000-meter distance medley relay heat at the New England Div. III Indoor Championship at MIT's Johnson Athletic Center on Feb. 18. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The Jumbos officially started their outdoor season with an invitational meet at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas over spring break.  

“We ended up getting in really late the night before, or more like early that morning, so we hadn’t practiced on an outdoor track yet,” sophomore hurdler and jumper Kylene DeSmith said. “So for us to perform the way we did was good.”

The Jumbos’ spirits were nearly as high as the blistering Nevada heat as they competed against opponents from all divisions. Despite finishing 12th out of 14 teams, the experience made the week worth it for the Jumbos, according to DeSmith.

“We had some good finishes because those other teams from higher divisions were really pushing us,” DeSmith said. “They were from Utah and Colorado and Vegas, so not teams we would ordinarily see during the season, but definitely good for challenging us.”

Several Jumbos rose to that challenge, performing against both standing records and their higher ranked opponents.  

First-year thrower Julia Kissel broke the Tufts javelin throw record in her first outdoor meet as a Jumbo. She posted a 130’2″ (39.64 meters) throw, breaking the previous Tufts record by more than five feet and earning herself a third place national ranking early in the season. She placed fourth in the meet, and earned her team five points towards their total.  

Fellow first-years sprinter Julia Gake and distance runner Haley Barthel also had strong meets. Gake ran a 59.03 in the 400-meter, placing her just outside the top 10 for Div. III, and Barthel ran an 18:16.67 in the 5,000-meter, which puts her 22nd in the nation.

“Our freshmen really showed up,” DeSmith said. “They are a really great class and we’re excited to see what they can do.”  

Sophomore Natalie Bettez also ran the 5,000-meter clocking in at 18:09.54, earning her a No. 16 national ranking and two points toward her team’s total.  

Sophomore Brita Dawson competed in two events, in which she placed in the top 30 nationally. Her long jump measured at 16’9 ¾’’ (5.12 meters), earning herself the 22nd spot in division 3 rankings. Her 4’11″ clearance in the high jump ranked 23rd in the nation.  

The highest scorer of the meet for Tufts was sophomore Sarah Perkins. Running the 3,000-meter steeplechase field in the sweltering heat, she finished with a time of 12:37.65, which placed her third in the event and 37th nationally, and earned her six points for the Jumbos.

“It was almost 90 degrees out,” DeSmith said. “And Sarah had to wait around in the heat all day before doing her long distance event.”

Junior Jennifer Sherwill had a 117’8’’ (35.87-meter) discus throw, ranking her 25th in the nation, as well as a 37’3 ¼’’ (11.36 meters) shot put, which ranked her 29th.  

Junior Annalisa DeBari clocked a 12.77 in the 100-meter hurdles, ranking her 26th.  Only a week earlier, DeBari placed fifth in the 60-meter hurdles at the Indoor National Championships.  

Senior quad-captain Samantha Cox ran the 1,500, finishing with a 4:50.12 time, which ranked her 10th in the nation. DeSmith explained that Cox and her fellow seniors serve as vital leaders for younger members of the team and set the tone at meets like the one in Vegas.

Despite the Jumbos facing unusually stiff competition at the invitational, their opponents from Div. I and II pushed players to run some of their best times.

We did well considering the heat conditions outside and considering we hadn’t been on an outdoor track at all prior to this, since we had just come out of indoor season,” DeSmith said. 

Trips like this one not only expose the Tufts squad to tough competition but also promote team bonding and allow the team to connect for the upcoming season, according to sophomore distance runner Olivia Barnett.

“I feel like the team is more united going into spring season because we all made an effort to get to know one another,” Barnett told the Daily in an email. “I think our unification and ambition will really propel us into this season.”

Now, the Jumbos are focusing on their next meet: the Snowflake Classic over the weekend. Despite taking place in early spring, the Classic has an ironic history appropriate for its name, according to DeSmith.

“Two years ago, before I was here, it actually snowed at the Snowflake Classic.” she said. “Last year, the weather wasn’t very good either. It poured the whole time, and we still had to run regardless, so it was tough.”

The trend seems likely to continue this year, as Tufts will face off against other New England-area teams Saturday and Sunday at the Snowflake Classic despite expectations for rain throughout the weekend.

“The weather is supposed to be really bad,” Barnett wrote. “But, regardless, we want to go in strong and not let that hinder us too much. We need to maintain a consistently optimistic attitude as we enter outdoor season.”