Women’s track and field kicks off indoor season with encouraging performances

Alice Wasserman (LA '17) competes in the second 4000m DMR heat at the New England Div. III Indoor Championship at MIT's Johnson Athletic Center on Feb. 18, 2017. (Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily Archives)

Over the last few weeks, the women’s track and field team has sprung strongly into the indoor season, coming in second at the Bowdoin Invitational in Brunswick, Maine. Tufts scored 127 points, while first-place MIT earned 212. Bowdoin came in third with 102, followed by Southern Maine (78) and Merrimack (59). At the Tufts Invitational on Jan. 13, the Jumbos claimed first-place finishes in four separate events.

With a promising start to the season, senior Eliza Lawless expressed her confidence in the team’s ability to establish itself among the region’s best.

“I’m really excited. We’re crushing it out there,” Lawless said. “Our goal every year is to finish in the top three at New England Div. III [Championships], which is definitely attainable.”

At the Bowdoin Invitational, first-place finishes in two events spearheaded the Jumbos’ success. Sophomore Julia Gake strode across the line in the 600-meter event for first with a time of 1:40.07, leading MIT sophomore Margaret Trautner (1:40.72). Gake’s success carried over in the Jumbo’s 4×400-meter relay, where she featured as the anchor leg. First-year Kristen Andersen opened the event, followed by sophomore Nehalem Kunkle-Read, sophomore Rhemi Toth and Gake for a first-place time of 4:15.62.

Despite typically competing in long-distance events, senior co-captain Brittany Bowman registered impressive performances at a pair of shorter races, earning a pair of second-place finishes. With a time of 4:58.88, Bowman broke the five-minute mark in the mile, and she finished the 800-meter race in 2:18.69.

“I don’t usually run the mile or 800, but coach [Kristen Morwick] decided to drill me to work on my speed, which is usually my weakness,” Bowman said. “The 3K and 5K are usually my main events, and I’m looking forward to getting back to long distance events.”

In the long-distance events, senior Margot Rashba recorded a second-place time of 18:21.83 over 5,000 meters, while junior Sarah Perkins also came in second with a time of 10:25.96 in the 3,000-meter event.

Further, both upper- and underclassmen secured solid finishes in the field events. Senior co-captain Jennifer Sherwill placed third in the shot put with a throw of 11.04 meters and in the weight throw (13.09 meters), while first-year Scarlet Bliss placed fourth in the high jump, leaping 1.49 meters.

A week prior, at the Tufts Invitational, the Jumbos secured first-place finishes across four different events. In the 4×800-meter relay, sophomore Lauren Diaz, sophomore Nicole Kerrigan, first-year Alexandra Wolf and junior Julia Noble crossed the line first in 10:02.71. Lawless took first in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10:38.12, while Toth won the mile in 5:15.70. Finally, junior Sydney Ladner won the pole vault with a clearance of 3.05 meters.

Aside from the four competitions that they won, the Jumbos continued to flourish, placing in second or third in several events. Junior Kylene DeSmith was the runner-up in the triple jump with a leap of 10.08 meters, and Gake finished third in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:00.60.

The Tufts Invitational was an unscored meet, which, according to Lawless, worked in the Jumbos’ favor toward individual qualifications for next month’s New England Div. III Championships.

“We’re hoping to get at least half of our team to qualify individually,” Lawless said. “Since the meet was unscored, it allowed us to focus on qualifying, and around 10 of our athletes were able to do so.”

One of the key factors behind the Jumbos’ strong start to the season and early victories was a 10-day training session held over winter break.

“On most days, we had two practices — one of them focused on our main mileage, while the other included a lift, team activity, goal setting or flexibility work,” first-year Madeleine Oliver said. “The extra time really allowed us to work on smaller things that we generally don’t have time for.”

The training was also especially crucial for athletes who raced cross country in the fall to adjust from the outdoor courses to the indoor track.

“On the positive side, not having wind, mud or hills takes a lot of time off, so it’s less of a struggle during races,” Oliver said. “But at the same time, running around such a small 200-meter track puts a lot of wear and tear on different parts of your body. Several girls were feeling tight hamstrings or calves because of the tight turns you need to make, so there’s an adjustment period.”

After its strong showing in the opening events of the season, Lawless hopes the team can maintain a similar level for the challenges to come.

“The important thing is to keep the momentum going,” Lawless said. “It’s certainly not going to come easy. Teams like Bates and Middlebury will give us competition, and we’ve got to put in the work.”

Tufts will host the inaugural Branwen Smith-King Invitational at the Gantcher Center on Saturday.