Jumbos enter final stretch looking strong

Junior Sarah Perkins, races in the 3000-meter steeplechase at the NESCAC Championship on April 28. Alina Strileckis / The Tufts Daily

As the No. 17 Tufts women’s track and field team prepares for the final meet of its season, the NCAA Championships, it can reflect on a season replete with strong performances up and down the roster, stretching all the way back to the middle of March.

The squad kicked off the 2018 outdoor season with a training trip to Jacksonville, Fla., during which it competed in the Spring Break Invitational at the University of North Florida on Mar. 23. While there was no team scoring at this meet, it was a good opportunity for the Jumbos to get back into the swing of outdoor meets following their three-month indoor season.

Upon returning to campus, Tufts hosted the Snowflake Classic on March 31, at which the team finished first out of the 22 teams competing. The Jumbos won seven events that day in their 187-point effort. Individual highlights from the event included graduating senior co-captain Brittany Bowman winning the 10,000-meter race in a time of 34:51.07 to break her personal and school record, as well as rising senior Kelsey Tierney winning the 5,000-meter race in a time of 17:46.43.

April proved to be a busy month for the Jumbos as they competed in four meets, culminating in the NESCAC Championships. On April 7, Tufts hosted No. 13 MIT, Bates and RPI for a meet in which the Jumbos earned second place. The following weekend, Tufts traveled to Conn. College where they participated in the two-day Silfen Invitational, finishing second of the 19 teams competing. Graduating senior co-captain Annalisa DeBari had a standout performance on the weekend, winning both the 100-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash. In their final meet before NESCACs, the Jumbos hosted and won the Sunshine Classic on April 21.

On April 28, Tufts traveled to Trinity for the NESCAC championship meet. The Jumbos turned in a solid showing, finishing second — behind only the Williams Ephs — to earn their best finish at this event since 2015. DeBari and Bowman led the way for the Jumbos as they both recorded individual victories. In the finals of the 100-meter hurdles, DeBari bested Colby rising senior Sophie Stokes Cerkvenik by 0.04 seconds, as she recorded a time of 14.33 seconds.

Meanwhile, Bowman ran her signature event, the 5,000 meters, in 17:13.59, nearly three full seconds ahead of Middlebury rising senior Kate MacCary. Bowman narrowly missed a second victory in the 1,500-meter run, finishing just behind graduating Bowdoin senior Sarah Kelley. The Tufts 4×400-meter relay team, made up of DeBari and rising juniors Julia Gake, Nehalem Kunkle-Read and Raquel Whiting, earned a second-place finish with a time of 3:54.71.

Highlights from the field events included rising senior Evelyn Drake’s first-place finish in the hammer throw, graduating senior Jennifer Sherwill’s third-place result in the discus throw and rising sophomore Nkem Aduka’s fourth-place finish in the shot put.

After last season’s disappointing sixth-place finish at NESCACs, the meet was a major point of focus for the team this year.

“This year, our big goal of the outdoor season was to go after [NESCACs] as a team and just do our best, so we accomplished that, which was amazing,” Sherwill said. “At the meet there were a ton of amazing performances and personal bests, so that really helped the team score some points.”

The following weekend, Tufts attended the New England Div. III Championships held at MIT, where it finished 10th of 33 teams. After that, the Jumbos competed in two more qualifying meets in preparation for next week’s NCAA Championships in La Crosse, Wis.