The Jumbos competed in the NCAA Championship held at Lake Breeze Golf Course in Winneconne, Wis. on Nov. 17. The team qualified for the championship through an at-large bid after garnering fifth place at Regionals on Nov. 10. In their sixth straight championship race, the Jumbos finished 12th out of 32 teams, with a total of 370 points.
Washington University in St. Louis claimed the championship with a points tally of just 98, inching past second-place and two-time defending champion Johns Hopkins by a single point. Washington University junior Paige Lawler led the way with a time of 20:55.0, one of just three runners in a field of close to 300 who finished sub-21.
Senior co-captain Natalie Bettez finished first for the Jumbos, which was unsurprising due to her highly consistent form over the season. She raced a time of 22:06.1 for 45th place at the meet. Fellow senior co-captain Kelsey Tierney came in second for the Jumbos, clocking in with a time of 22:31.4, good for 95th.
Meanwhile, seniors Olivia Barnett and Julia Noble placed 116th and 126th, respectively, with times of 22:40.5 and 22:44.4. First-year Anna Slager ran a 22:51.6 in her NCAA Championship debut, which was good for 142nd place. Rounding out the Jumbo roster were junior Lydia Heely and senior Jennifer Jackson, who ran times of 22:54.2 and 23:33.1 to finish 149th and 224th, respectively.
Tierney described her mixed post-race feelings.
“I’m not thrilled with how I did as an individual, but it was my best placing at Nationals over three years so I didn’t let myself get too disappointed,” Tierney said. “About seven weeks ago, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to step on the starting line of a single race in my final season, so I’m happy that I was able to help the team qualify for Nationals and get a chance to compete at all.”
For Bettez and Tierney, the competition was their last race as co-captains of the cross country team, which was a bittersweet moment.
“We went into the meet ranked around 15th, so it was nice to rank above that in the final scores,” Bettez told the Daily in an email. “Nationals is a very competitive, tough meet, so the best you can do is give it your all, and I saw all my teammates do just that. I feel very honored to have been able to end my Tufts cross country career alongside my teammates, especially my fellow seniors, and I will definitely miss running with them. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to race as a [Jumbo] for the past four years; it is an experience that has really shaped my time here at Tufts and I would do it all again.”
Bettez ends her Tufts cross country career as one of the program’s most decorated athletes. During her time at Tufts, Bettez has earned three consecutive All-NESCAC honors, numerous Athlete of the Week nominations and has been Tufts’ first-place finisher in every meet this season. Bettez, who took over the mantle as Tufts’ most impressive runner after Brittany Bowman (LA ’18) graduated last year, will too be sorely missed when she graduates from the program.
This, however, would not be the last time that the senior class competed for the Jumbos, as many of them also compete for the track and field team in the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.
“Even though I still have two seasons left of track in the spring, cross country is where it all started for me, so I’m pretty sad that it’s all over,” Tierney said. “I’m not much of a crier, but I talked with my high school coach on the day of Nationals and definitely shed a few tears. It was pretty tough to have my last season be essentially ruined by my first injury, but I’m excited [for] track and more motivated than ever now that my time is almost up.”
While the NCAA Championship marked the end to a successful season for the women’s cross country team — including fourth at NESCACs and fifth at the NCAA Regionals — Tierney said that the team could still do a lot more to improve as many runners transition into the track season starting Dec. 1.
“We all would have liked to have placed better than 12th as a team at Nationals, but once a race is over, it’s over, so I try to never get worked up about a result,” Tierney said. “In economics terms, it’s ‘sunk cost,’ and if anything I think we’ll all use it as motivation for the upcoming track season. Overall, Nationals is always a fun experience, and aside from being a competition, it’s also a great weekend to just have fun and celebrate all of the hard work it takes all season to qualify.”