Jumbos qualify for NCAA Championships at Tufts National Qualifying Meet

Junior Christian Swenson runs alongside the pacer in the mile race at the Cupid Challenge on Feb. 3. Madeleine Oliver / Tufts Track and Field

The Tufts men’s track and field team hosted and competed at the Tufts National Qualifying Meet at Gantcher Center on Saturday. The competition was the last chance for the Tufts athletes to post qualifying times for selection to NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala., and many seized the opportunity. Only the top 15 athletes in each event nationwide are selected for Nationals, so the meet allowed some of the Jumbos who were on the edge of the top 15 to improve their scores. A handful of Tufts’ individual athletes and one of its relay teams improved their season-best times and climbed the national rankings.

One Jumbo who improved upon his national ranking was junior Anthony Kardonsky. The Tenafly, N.J. native won the 200-meter dash in 22.13 seconds (which was adjusted to 21.74 seconds in to compensate for the banked track at Nationals), a time that places him 13th nationally. Kardonsky will compete at an NCAA championship event for the second time, having run in the Jumbos’ 4×100-meter relay at Outdoor Nationals last May.

“I’m really excited to see my hard work on the track pay off,” Kardonsky said. “I’ve definitely improved my technique. I can feel that I run more explosively now. The training program we go through has helped tremendously with that, but I’ve also been focusing on improving the mental aspect of racing. Meditating and also artificially inflating my confidence so that I truly believe I’ll win every race has helped a lot.”

Senior Stefan Duvivier also improved upon his national ranking in the high jump on Saturday. He posted a 2.10-meter jump in the event, matching his school-record indoor mark. Duvivier’s jump ended up tied for fifth in the country. It was critical that the senior post a good result because his previous season-best, 2.06 meters, would have placed him in a tie for 17th — outside the cutoff for Nationals.

Tufts’ distance medley relay (DMR) team also put up a nationally ranked time on its home track. The squad — consisting of junior Christian Swenson, senior co-captain Drew DiMaiti and juniors Hiroto Watanabe and Colin Raposo — ran a second-place time of 10:00.62 that converts to a 9:52.58 mark on a banked track. The latter time currently ranks eighth in the nation, sending the group to the national championships.

On Saturday, Kardonsky, Duvivier and the DMR team joined an already-strong pool of Tufts athletes going to Birmingham. Watanabe’s time of 1:58.98 in the 800-meter dash is currently third in Div. III, making the Yarmouth Port, Mass. native a favorite in the event. DiMaiti made the cut by the smallest of margins in the 400-meter dash, as his time of 48.29 seconds from the Last Chance Qualifier at Boston University on March 25 placed 15th in the nation.

The Jumbos are fortunate to have such an experienced group of athletes going to the NCAA Championships this year. Last year, Watanabe earned All-American honors in the 800 meters, finishing eight out of all the competitors. Duvivier also competed at Nationals last year, finishing 10th in the high jump with a mark of 1.97 meters. The team will be without the contributions of Tim Nichols (LA ’17), who won last year’s 5,000 meters by 3.07 seconds, contributing a large number of points to Tufts’ overall score. However, the Jumbos will still be bolstered by many athletes who have been competing at high levels throughout the season, such as Kardonsky and DiMaiti.

“We are very fortunate that almost all of the guys going to the Championships have been multiple times before,” Tufts coach Joel Williams said. “The two guys going that have never been to NCAAs — [senior] Tom DePalma and [sophomore] Matt D’Anieri — both have plenty of championship experience and have been preparing for this opportunity for quite some time. This entire team is incredibly competitive and really knows how to show up when it matters. I would say I am equally confident in every guy heading to the Championships.”

Williams, who on Tuesday was named U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association New England Indoor Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year, will lead Tufts at the NCAA Championships on March 9–10 at Birmingham-Southern College.