Tufts eyes NCAA Championships with three relays at Boston University

Sophomore Nehalem Kunkle-Read runs the second leg of the 4x400-meter relay at New England Div. III Championships on Feb 17. Madeleine Oliver / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts women’s track and field team traveled to Boston University on Sunday for the first of its two Last Chance Qualifying Meets. The Jumbos ran three relays at the meet, but they were unable to record any times that would qualify them for the upcoming NCAA Championships, to be held March 9–10 in Birmingham, Ala.

Tufts put up two teams in the distance medley relay (DMR), in which there are legs of 1,200, 400, 800, and 1,600 meters. The Jumbos’ first quartet consisted of sophomore Rhemi Toth, sophomore Sarah Levine, first-year Olivia Martin and junior Sarah Perkins. They finished the relay eighth overall with a time of 12:15.37, which currently places them 32nd in the Div. III rankings. Tufts is already in good position to field a DMR team at Nationals: Toth, sophomore Julia Gake, Martin, and senior co-captain Brittany Bowman currently sit 10th. Levine, who ran the 400-meter leg of the relay, hopes that the Jumbos can serve another top-12 time next week, which they need to qualify for the national meet.

“This weekend, we’re trying out different people for the relay in the hope to get the best time possible,” Levine said. “Hopefully, everything goes well and we run a time that guarantees the relay [team] a spot at Nationals.”

The other Tufts foursome to run the distance medley relay consisted of sophomore Lauren Diaz, first-year Emily Murray, junior Julia Noble and sophomore Nicole Kerrigan. They finished in tenth position, about half a minute behind their teammates, with a time of 12:47.11.

The Jumbos’ final relay of the day was the 4×400-meter race. At the David Hemery Valentine Invitational on Feb. 9, the Tufts team of sophomore Nehalem Kunkle-Read, senior co-captain Annalisa DeBari, sophomore Raquel Whiting and Gake ran the 4×400 in 3:58.49, a mark that ranked 26th in the nation entering Sunday’s meet. The Jumbos rolled out the same squad again, finishing the relay in 3:59.28 — less than a second off their previous time. However, with four relay teams posting sub-3:55 times at BU, the Tufts women slipped to 29th on the Div. III leaderboard.

The Jumbos will host their final qualifying meet on Saturday at the Gantcher Center, with the hopes of securing spots at the NCAA Championships for a few more runners. DeBari believes that the team will focus on the DMR and overall individual improvements, with an eye for both Nationals and the upcoming outdoor season.

“For the Last Chance Meet this Saturday, we are going to focus on our distance medley relay team,” DeBari said. “The four members of the relay are currently ranked 10th nationally, and [the] top 12 teams qualify for Nationals. It is common for other teams to run faster times at this meet, so in order to solidify our relay team’s position, we would like to run a slightly faster time in that event. Other athletes competing are also looking to qualify or [to] practice their event in preparation for the outdoor season. I think our team is really excited to have one final shot at qualifying.”