After final qualifying meet, Jumbos set for nationals in Boston

Senior Colin Raposo holds off the competition during the 3k race at the annual Branwen Smith-King Classic on Jan. 26. (Madeleine Oliver / The Tufts Daily)

It’s championship season for the Tufts men’s track and field team this weekend after the final regular season meet of the indoor season on Saturday. The Jumbos hosted the Tufts National Qualifying Meet, which has been called the “last chance” meet in past years. It is the final opportunity for athletes to qualify for the NCAA Div. III Championships on Friday and Saturday.

At the Tufts National Qualifying Meet, individual players from several schools including Tufts attempted to improve upon their season-best times in their respective events. Athletes from other New England schools were present, as well as schools from other parts of the nation such as Emory (Georgia) and Otterbein (Ohio).

Two Jumbos, who were in contention to qualify nationally, improved upon their times on Saturday. Senior sprinter Anthony Kardonsky ran a 22.20-second 200-meter dash. Unfortunately, this put him just outside the top 20 to qualify for the national meet. Still, the senior had an impressive showing, with the second-best time in the 200-meter and the top time for the meet in the 60-meter dash, matching his own season-best with a 6.98-second time.

The other Jumbo to improve upon his national qualifying time was senior co-captain and mid-distance runner Hiroto Watanabe. He posted a time of 1:54.11 in the 800-meter run, which placed him 19th nationally after the race.

Since he hadn’t yet qualified, Watanabe’s team was out on the track cheering for him during his final qualifying race. He was just outside the top 20, but he put himself in by improving his time. It was no certainty after the race that he had qualified, but luckily, Watanabe was still in position to qualify by the time the NCAA announced the qualifiers on Sunday.

This will be the third national meet for Watanabe, who spoke about what it means to be going back to the indoor championships in his senior year.

“It’s a great opportunity to improve on what I’ve done,” Watanabe said. “Knowing that it’s my last year in this meet, that definitely means something. So you can’t have any regrets about what you do. There’s no next year.”

The co-captain also noted that he feels confident heading into the final indoor races of his career.

“I like my chances,” Watanabe said. “Even though my seed is low, I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of where I’ll finish, hopefully. I just have to get through the prelims by coming in first or second, and then put myself in a position to compete in the finals.”

Other notable times in the qualifying meet include senior mid-distance runner Tom Doyle’s mark of 49.93 in the 400-meter, which puts him in the top 40 nationally. First-year distance runner Nicholas Delaney earned his season best (1:56.79) behind his teammate Watanabe in the 800-meter. In the field events, sophomore jumper Matthew Manteiga notched a distance of 22’3 ¾” in the long jump, which was a new season best.

Along with Watanabe, two other Jumbos will compete at the NCAA Championships this weekend. Senior hurdler Josh Etkind will participate in the 60-meter hurdles. He currently has the nation’s 15th best time of 8.18. Etkind attempted to improve his time on Saturday and, despite failing to do so, will still compete at nationals.

The third athlete representing Tufts will be senior mid-distance runner Colin Raposo. The senior did not compete on Saturday, but he previously held the 14th time nationally in the mile with a time of 4:09.82.

Raposo has been to national championship meets before, but only as part of a group effort or a relay team. The senior talked about competing individually on a national stage for the first time.

“It’s going to be really exciting for me to go out there and see what I can do in an individual race,” Raposo said. “[The meet] carries some extra urgency since it’s my senior year, but I’m just excited to see what I can do.”

The championship meet will take place over the weekend in Boston, which is different from past championship meets for the current Jumbo runners. Normally they would have to travel somewhere by plane without the rest of their team, but this time the meet will be just a short T ride away.

“It’s a huge benefit for us,” Raposo said. “Because we’re going to have a large portion of our teammates there to cheer us on. That’s always an added bonus; getting the energy from your friends and teammates is second to none when it comes to motivation.”

The NCAA Div. III Championships will kick off on Friday at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.


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