Tufts takes second at NESCAC Championships

Senior Eliza Lawless competes in the 1,500 meters at the Sunshine Classic hosted by Tufts on April 21. Alina Strileckis / The Tufts Daily

The NESCAC Championships took place at Trinity on Saturday, where the Tufts women’s track and field team put on a strong performance, finishing second overall. This is an improvement from last year’s NESCAC tournament at Bowdoin, where the team finished in sixth place.

The Jumbos earned a total of 115.5 points, trailing only an outstanding 200-point performance by the Williams Ephs. In particular, senior co-captains Annalisa DeBari and Brittany Bowman, as well as junior Evelyn Drake, picked up individual victories to lead the Jumbos to a convincing showing.

DeBari set a NESCAC meet record in the preliminaries of the 100-meter hurdles, dashing to the finish line with a time of 14.32 seconds. Interestingly, the record used to be held by former Jumbo Heather Sibbison (LA 83). DeBari’s time currently ranks third in the nation, which should secure her entrance to the NCAA Div. III Championship. She went on to win the final race, crossing the finish line only 0.01 seconds slower than in her preliminary run.

“I’m so happy about the time I posted Saturday,” DeBari said. “Breaking the NESCAC record was a pleasant surprise. I felt really good and I’ve been practicing hard, so it was nice to see it all come together.”

DeBari was pleased with how the team performed overall.

“We all did what our seed time predicted, or better,” DeBari said. “I think we went into it with a very focused, positive and excited mindset. All week, the captains were saying little things to motivate and excite the team for the meet. We did a lot of strategizing and goal setting. I think the high energy and supporting each other in every event started at the beginning of the day in the first event, which really helped our momentum to keep going the whole day.”

In the distance events, Bowman continued her outstanding Tufts track career. Last year, Bowman won the conference title in the 10,000 meters — an event in which she did not compete this year. Instead, she competed and came out victorious in the 5,000-meter event with a record of 17:13.59. Bowman also earned second place in the 1,500-meter event, four seconds behind Bowdoin senior Sarah Kelley. Her 4:32.07 mark just makes the cut for the top 10 times in the country this year.

The Jumbos kept pace in other events throughout the day, as DeBari ran fourth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 25.15 seconds. Junior Sarah Perkins added a third-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, while sophomore Nehalem Kunkle-Read notched a fourth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:06.09.

Tufts also performed well in the relay events. In the 4×400 meters, the Tufts squad of DeBari, Kunkle-Read and sophomores Julia Gake and Raquel Whiting placed second with a time of 3:54.71, less than three-tenths of a second behind Middlebury. In the 4×100-meter relay, first-year Olivia Schwern and junior co-captain Brita Dawson substituted Gake and Kunkle-Read, and the quartet finished in sixth place.

In the field events, junior Evelyn Drake was victorious in the hammer throw — her first win in any event in her collegiate career. Drake’s throw of 43.83 meters was nearly two meters farther than any other in the field. Behind Drake’s breakout performance, Tufts posted many points in the field events.

Senior co-captain Jennifer Sherwill helped the Jumbos score in three events: fifth in the shot put (11.67 meters), third in the discus throw (39.33 meters) and third in the hammer throw (41.74 meters). First-year Nkem Aduka also impressed in her maiden conference championship, as the Camas, Wash. native threw her way to fourth-place finishes in the shot put (11.67 meters) and the discus (38.69 meters). Juniors Sharon Kelmar and Sydney Ladner both cleared 3.10 meters in the pole vault to secure fifth- and sixth-place finishes.

Tufts coach Kristen Morwick was pleased with the results and the way the team competed.

“Everybody gave it their all. A lot of people placed better than what they were seeded, and everyone was supportive of one another,” Morwick said. We had a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm, which contributed to a lot of great individual performances. Everything really came together for us [this weekend], and I’m not surprised we were able to finish four places better than last year.”

The women’s track and field team is in great form heading into the end of the season, with NCAA Championships awaiting in May. The athletes will do their best over the next few weeks to better their marks and ensure qualification in the event, starting with New England Div. III Championships at MIT. The team has about a month left of action before the national championship kicks off at University of Wisconsin–La Crosse on May 24–26.