Track and field teams gear up for upcoming winter season

Senior co-captain Brita Dawson maintains a lead in the 4x200-meter relay at the New England Div. III Championships on Feb. 17. Madeleine Oliver / Tufts Track and Field

As November transitions into December, Tufts runners have begun preparation for the indoor track and field season. Many of the Jumbos were members of the men’s and women’s cross country teams that finished 12th and 25th, respectively, at the NCAA Championship, but they will now turn their attention to the track.

Men’s track and field

The Jumbos look to build on a strong 2017–18 indoor season in which they won the New England Div. III Championship for the second straight year. 

Drew DiMaiti (LA ’18) and senior Hiroto Watanabe defended their titles as New England champions in the 600 meters and 800 meters, respectively. Their winning marks both set facility records at Middlebury’s Virtue Field House.

Senior Anthony Kardonsky posted a record-breaking result of his own, running the 200-meter dash in 22.26 seconds. In the 60-meter hurdles, senior Josh Etkind beat out WPI sophomore Oliver Thomas for the New England title in a dramatic final, with his mark of 8.233 seconds edging out Thomas’ time by only .002 seconds.

The Jumbos also displayed strong performances in the field events. Senior Ben Wallace finished second in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 4.61 meters. Junior Kevin Quisumbing earned a third-place finish in the shot put, with a season-best 15.40 meters. Stefan Duvivier (LA ’18) also came in second in the high jump, recording a then-season-best 2.04 meters.

In looking ahead to this season, Watanabe focused on replicating last year’s success.

“We’re looking to win indoor [Div. III] New Englands,” he said. “We’ve won it the past two years, so it would be pretty cool to three-peat.”

A third straight title at the New England Div. III Championship would also be Tufts’ seventh in program history, but the team has its sights set higher: NCAA Championships.

“We also want to send as many people as possible to the national meet, especially since it’s here in Boston,” Watanabe said.

Last year’s Div. III NCAA Championships were held in Birmingham, Ala., where the Jumbos tied for 13th overall. Duvivier won the national title in the high jump by clearing 2.20 meters, which tied him for the fourth-best indoor mark in Div. III history. Meanwhile, Watanabe came in sixth place in the 800 meters with a time of 1:53.64, earning All-American honors.

Duvivier’s contributions, along with those of the entire Class of 2018, will be missed this season. Nonetheless, Watanabe remains confident that the Jumbos will be in good hands with their new leaders: senior co-captains Tommy Miller, Brandon Levenstein, Henry Hintermeister and Ben Wallace.

“The leadership has already been replaced,” Watanabe said. “People have always been stepping up constantly, and the people who are captains or leaders on a team — it’s just a matter of title. I think everyone’s always ready to step up and eager to do what’s needed and fill in the gaps.”

The team chose not to participate in the upcoming Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener at Boston University, instead choosing to hold an internal scrimmage meet. The Jumbos’ competitive races will begin after the winter break with the first Tufts Invitational scheduled for Jan. 12.

Women’s track and field

Meanwhile, the women’s track and field team also looks to improve on last year’s successful indoor season. The Jumbos displayed a well-rounded effort at the the New England Div. III Championships, placing fourth overall. This year, the Jumbos have four co-captains: seniors Trish Blumeris, Evelyn Drake, Brita Dawson and Jennifer Jackson.

Brittany Bowman (LA ’18) placed second in the 3,000 meters, falling to Coast Guard sophomore Kaitlyn Mooney by just .14 seconds. Junior Julia Gake placed second in the 600 meters with a time of 1:37.65. In the field events, Annalisa DeBari (LA ’18) finished third in 60-meter hurdles in 8.96 seconds.

Tufts finished second in the 4×800-meter relay, with juniors Nicole Kerrigan and Rhemi Toth and sophomores Olivia Martin and Emily Murray finishing in 9:32.85. The Jumbos also recorded fourth in the distance medley and sixth in the 4×200 relays.

Gake took pride in last year’s results, but also saw room for improvement.

“We definitely would like to be at the top of [Div. III] New Englands,” she said. “We’ve had success with that in the past couple years. We’d like to get back into the top three.”

While some of Tufts’ top contributors graduated in May, the team still possesses tremendous potential. Gake is confident that the first-year Jumbos will integrate themselves seamlessly into the team’s dynamic and post strong results.

“I feel like the team’s looking really good this season,” she said. “We lost some of our key point-scorers, but we have a good spread across all of the events. We definitely have some new [first-years] who are going to perform well in my events, the long sprints, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Tufts ultimately placed 11th at the Div. III NCAA Championships thanks to strong performances from its seniors. Bowman won the NCAA title in the 5,000 meters with a school-record time of 16:31.32 and added a fourth-place finish in the 3,000 meters in a time of 9:39.98. DeBari came in fifth in the 60-meter hurdles (8.89 seconds) for the second year in a row to earn All-American honors.

Like Watanabe, Gake is confident in the team’s leadership despite its loss of such prolific athletes.

“We do have a returning captain in Brita Dawson,” she said. “And she’s still a solid leader on the team. And we have a number of seniors who are providing good leadership.”

The women’s track and field team will have an opportunity to display its strength on Saturday at Boston University’s Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener.