Record-breaking Bowman wins national championship in 5,000 meters

Senior co-captain (right) Brittany Bowman runs the 5,000 meters during the Final Qualifying Meet at the Gantcher Center on March 4, 2016. Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily

Senior co-captain Brittany Bowman won the 5,000-meter race to lead the Tufts women’s track and field team to a tie for 11th place at the NCAA Div. III Indoor Track and Field Championships over the weekend.

The two-day meet — hosted by Birmingham-Southern University and held at the CrossPlex complex in Birmingham, Ala. — featured athletes representing schools from all across the country. Last year, only two Jumbos made it to the national championships: Bowman and now-senior co-captain Annalisa DeBari. This year, Tufts tripled the size of its contingent, sending six women to vie in four events

Bowman lauded the efforts of her teammates, including Tufts’ four first-time qualifiers.

“It was great to qualify six people, especially since for four out of [the] six of us, it was their first experience,” she said. “They all earned the trip. They definitely were deserving of it.”

Bowman added that the experience of going to Nationals should help the younger Jumbos in the future.

“It was good for them to see what running at Nationals is like because it’s so different than regular season meets or even our New England postseason meet,” she said. “The level of competition is much higher, but also [there is more] pressure because you’re running on the national level. The whole country is watching.”

The Jumbos competed in three different events on Friday, with the standout result coming in the 5,000 meters. Based on her previous performances this season, Bowman was seeded seventh. Among those ranked ahead of her was Ithaca senior Taryn Cordani, who won both the 3,000 and 5,000-meter events at last year’s indoor national championships. Cordani particularly excels in the 5K, as her time of 16:28.15 at the 2017 indoor championship meet is the third-fastest mark in Div. III history. In order to win, Bowman thus had to defeat the reigning national champion in her best event.

For the first 4,400 meters, Bowman and Cordani ran within half a second of one another, albeit with the latter leading the former most of the way. According to Bowman, this was all according to plan.

“My strategy was to be in the lead pack and follow. I definitely did not want to lead [from the start] because 25 laps is a lot, and it’s a lot of work to have to lead the whole race,” she said. “I just snuck right in there in second place and followed the leader for the first 22 laps.”

In the antepenultimate lap, Bowman surged more than a second ahead of Cordani.

“I was still feeling great and strong,” Bowman recalled. “So with three laps to go, I passed her and kicked, and that’s when I knew that I could do it.”

Bowman’s lead grew to three seconds with just 200 meters remaining, at which point the Camden, Maine native ran her fastest split of the day to clinch her first national championship. The Tufts co-captain finished the race with a time of 16:31.32, more than five and a half seconds ahead of second-place Cordani. Bowman improved upon the previous Tufts record in the 5,000 meters by nearly 11 seconds, vaulting ahead of Catherine Beck’s (A ’08) time of 16:42.23.

Another Jumbo broke a school record on Friday, as DeBari’s time of 8.79 seconds in a preliminary heat for the 60-meter hurdles bested her own mark of 8.80 seconds, which she set just a week ago. The performance advanced DeBari to the finals of the event, held the next day.

“With the hurdles, you never really know how it’s going to go because you have to do well in the preliminary [race],” DeBari said. “A lot of the top-ranked athletes didn’t make it to the finals, so I’m very happy with making it to the final and placing there again.”

Both Bowman and DeBari ran again on Saturday. The former placed fourth overall in the 3,000 meters with a time of 9:39.98, improving upon her previous personal best by over five seconds. In the finals of the 60-meter hurdles, DeBari finished in 8.89 seconds, good for fifth overall. For her efforts, Bowman garnered the fifth and sixth All-American honors of her career, while DeBari was named an All-American in the 60-meter hurdles for the second straight year.

“I’m a little bit disappointed because I did have the second-fastest time going into the finals, so I was hoping to do a little bit better,” DeBari admitted. “But after giving it some time, I’ll be able to really be happy with how it went.”

Tufts competed in one other race at Nationals. On Friday, the quartet of sophomore Rhemi Toth, sophomore Julia Gake, first-year Olivia Martin and junior Sarah Perkins competed in the distance medley relay. The foursome combined for a time of 12:04.56, slotting them in 10th place.

Finishing 11th overall in the team standings, Tufts ranked as the third-best team from the NESCAC, trailing only second-place Williams and tied-for-eighth-place Bates. Having entered the weekend ranked 20th in the nation by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, the Jumbos have much to be proud about.

The team kicks off its spring season with a pair of meets in Jacksonville, Fla. over spring break before it hosts the Tufts Snowflake Classic on March 31.