Cross country prepares for New England Div. III Race this weekend

Hiroto Wantanbe, '19, runs at the Connecticut College Cross Country Invitational at Harkness Memorial State Park on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

Following a successful run at the NESCAC Championships on Oct. 28, the Jumbos will compete at the New England Div. III Regional Championship on Saturday as both the men’s and women’s teams look to build on an impressive season.

For the men’s team, juniors Colin Raposo, Brian Reaney, Dylan Jones, Christian Swenson, Hiroto Watanabe and Andrew Doherty Munro, as well as first-year Patrick Nero, will race on Saturday, hoping to qualify for the NCAA tournament on Nov. 18.

The men’s team has looked solid throughout the season, with veteran racers like Raposo, Reaney and Jones finishing in the top three for the Jumbos in a variety of races. In the Bates Invitational held at Pineland Farms on Sept. 16, the team came in second overall, with Jones placing first for the team in 11th place. At the Paul Short Invitational race held at Lehigh University on Sept. 29, Raposo and Reaney finished first and second for the Jumbos, helping the team come in ninth overall.

The Jumbos also came in sixth out of the 11 teams at the NESCAC Championships held on Oct. 28, scoring a total of 161 points. The race consisted of a single 8-kilometer event in which all the runners competed. Raposo, Reaney and Jones, following up on their consistent season, finished in the top three for the Jumbos in this race as well.

Coach Mike Schmidt said that the NESCAC race was, on the whole, a good performance for the men’s team and was indicative of a good season.

“Our result was not necessarily as we hoped, but I thought that we did well overall,” Schmidt said. “The problem was that there was a separation in times between the top finishers from the team and the rest of the team and this did not help us too much. However, I think that the race served as a good preparation for the divisional race this upcoming weekend.”

The Div. III Regional race this year will be key for the Jumbos as they must finish in the top four to qualify for the national NCAA Championship on Nov. 18. Additionally, at last year’s regional race, Tim Nichols (LA ’17), finished first. Additionally, Luke O’Connor (LA ’17), finished third. This stellar performance last year gives the team a huge goal to achieve and big shoes to fill as they look for a big performance that will help them qualify for nationals this year.

“The good thing is that most of the racers have raced in the New England Div. III tournament before, and this will help the team a lot,” Schmidt said. “We also have had some time to rest and prepare for the race after the previous one. Having two races in consecutive weekends is always difficult, so the added gap will serve us well as we go into this important race.”

The women’s team also looks to supplement a great season and repeat an excellent performance at the Div. III race last year. The seven racers who will race on Saturday Nov. 11 will be seniors Brittany Bowman and Margot Rashba, juniors Natalie Bettez, Olivia Barnett and Kelsey Tierney and first-years Carly Curcuru and Johanna Ross.

Throughout the season, Bowman and Bettez have finished in first and second places for the Jumbos in all five races. Barnett has followed behind them in third place in three of the races. Curcuru has finished in the top five for Tufts in all five races thus far, and Tierney, Ross and Rashba have impressed throughout the season as well. In the Bates Invitational, the Jumbos finished first overall with a score of 114, with Bowman coming in second, Bettez in third and Barnett in 11th. Additionally, the Jumbos placed second in the Conn. College Invitational held at Harkness Memorial State Park on Oct. 14. In this race too, Bowman and Bettez finished first and second respectively for Tufts, coming in second and third overall.

At the NESCAC Championship race held on Oct. 28, the Jumbos finished third as a team, with Bowman coming in fifth, Bettez coming in sixth and Barnett coming in 13th. After this performance, all three runners were given NESCAC All-Conference honors. Bowman and Bettez made the First Team, and Barnett made the Second.

I was really happy with how I raced at NESCAC and with how I pushed myself to stay at the head of the pack for the duration of the race,” Bettez said. “Overall, it was good to come in third, beating Bates and coming close to Middlebury. This is going to give us a much better footing for this coming weekend and in helping us qualify for the NCAA tournament.”

Last year at the NCAA regional event, Bowman and Bettez were first and sixth respectively, which has both been reflected this season and is indicative of the good chance these two runners and the team have in this year’s reboot.

“The NESCAC race has given us a great chance to qualify for the NCAA race,” Bettez said. “We have been performing really well all season thanks to a strong team made up of many [first-years] who came in to fill in for a strong graduating class last year. Our consistency and success at NESCAC are going to be important because when NESCAC decides who to give spots to after the top two finishers at the regionals race, all previous races are considered. We have done well all season, and this will help us in qualifying.”

Both teams look forward to the New England Division III regionals race on Nov. 11, where they hope for a solid performance to help them qualify for the NCAA Championships race on Nov. 18.