Women’s track and field looks forward to indoor season

Sophomore Alina Strileckis throws a javelin at the women's track and field home meet on April 15. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

As winter approaches, the women’s track and field team prepares to take on the competition indoors. The Jumbos wrapped up a solid season last year, dialing in respectable performances at the 2017 New England Div. III Championships, 2017 NESCAC Championships and 2017 New England Div. III Indoor Championships.

Last year’s run at the New England Div. III Championships at Williams College was spearheaded by the 4×800-meter relay ran by current sophomores Lauren Diaz, Julia Gake and Nicole Kerrigan, and co-captain Samantha Cox (LA ’17), who finished by a mere margin of 0.04 seconds behind runner-up MIT. Their time of 9:14.86 was the second fastest time in Tufts history. In the field events, current sophomore Julia Kissel scored a seventh-place finish in the javelin throw, and current senior Jennifer Sherwill received third in the discus throw. Overall, Bowdoin edged Tufts by a slight one-point margin to take ninth, as Tufts tied Bridgewater State for 10th.

In the 2017 NESCAC Championships at Bowdoin College, senior captain Brittany Bowman won the 10,000-meter run, leading the runner-up — current sophomore Katherine Treanor of Amherst — by a gap of over a minute. Also, current junior Brita Dawson placed third in the long jump with a record of 5.29m, while Dawson’s classmate Sydney Ladner placed fourth in the pole vault with a record of 3.10m. Williams, Bates and Middlebury finished in the top three places, while Tufts came in sixth, with only a four-point margin separating fourth and sixth place.

In last year’s New England Div. III Indoor Championships at MIT, Tufts tied Middlebury and Bates for third, placing behind winner MIT and runner-up Williams. Cox had an impressive third-place finish in the 1,000-meter run, while Gake registered a runner-up finish in the 600-meter run. 

Although the Jumbos have lost some strong seniors to graduation and are overall a younger team this year with 27 first-years, senior distance runner Eliza Lawless articulated that the team is hoping to go even further this season.

“It’s never about just the upperclassmen or the first years,” Lawless said. “We come together as one cohesive team, and we’re really looking forward to pushing for a top-three finish at the New England Indoor Championships.”

The upperclassmen play a key role in supporting the younger athletes, according to first-year Madeleine Oliver.

“The upperclassmen really show us that coming to practice on time means being there a couple minutes early,” Oliver said. “They lead by example and help us stay informed. Before meets they’ll sent out pictures of the courses to make sure we really feel comfortable and know what we’re going up against.”

Members of the cross country team, which placed second at the Div. III New England Regionals and seventh at the NCAA Championships, also compete in track and field. Thus, many athletes are working on transitioning into the indoor season.

Oliver highlighted how cross country athletes are working on adapting their running in order to prepare for the indoor track season.

“We’re transitioning into running less mileage at a faster pace.” Oliver said.

According to first-year Grace Fagan, the shift from cross country to track also involves particular focus on physical fitness.

“We’ve been running since the summer for cross country,” Fagan said. “It’s nice to take some time off and focus on lifting more and getting stronger for track. So far, it’s been a pretty smooth transition. We really start practicing after winter break is over, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Although track and field is headlined by a variety of individual events, team camaraderie is crucial to success for the Jumbos. Oliver described the importance of support from the sidelines.

“We travel and cheer for the team at meets that some of us are not even competing in,” Oliver said. “During fall regionals, we all went up to Maine to cheer for our teammates who were competing and went wild with body paint. During cross country nationals, we took a 20-hour road trip out to Illinois and a 20-hour trip back. It’s a big commitment, but it’s worth it to help encourage my teammates. Having familiar faces and people cheering for you all the way out there really makes a big difference.”

Earlier this year, Oliver suffered from a midfoot injury which prevented her from competing. Now fully recovered, she looks forward to the indoor season.

“I couldn’t run for all of September, but I’m fully healed now and ready to go,” Oliver said. “It was frustrating when I got injured. I want to get out there and turn all of that negative energy into positive energy.”

Guided by a strong sense of team unity and a desire to ensure a smooth transition from cross country to track, the Jumbos look forward to another successful season.

Tufts will start its season on Saturday at the Boston University Season Opener.