Men’s track and field competes at NCAA Championships, gets eliminated in preliminaries

Junior Rory Buckman competes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NESCAC Championship on Apr. 28, 2018. (Madeleine Oliver / Tufts Track and Field)

On Friday, the Tufts men’s track and field team competed at the NCAA Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury Crossing, Mass. Only athletes with top-20 times in their respective events were invited to the NCAA Championships. From Tufts, those athletes included senior co-captain Hiroto Watanabe and seniors Colin Raposo and Josh Etkind. Watanabe came into the tournament ranked 19th in the 800-meter, Etkind came in ranked 15th in the 60-meter hurdles and Raposo came ranked 14th in the mile run. Unfortunately for the Jumbos, neither Watanabe, Raposo nor Etkind qualified for the finals of the meet and were eliminated in the preliminaries.

In the 800-meter, Watanabe finished 16th with a time of 1:54.69. It was a pretty tight race, as there was only a one-second difference between Watanabe and 11th place finisher sophomore Mark Schulz from Wartburg College. Watanabe needed to finish within in the top eight to advance to the finals of the tournament and expressed that he was disappointed with the result.

“I am disappointed with [my] performance at nationals,” Watanabe said. “Not making it to finals is a failure on my part.”

In the mile, Raposo ran a 4:15.25. This mark earned him 15th place, missing the 10th-place finish needed to move on to the finals in the mile event. He was only two seconds behind the 10th-place finisher, senior Zach Lee, who went on to win the entire event.

Raposo was disappointed with his mark but is using it to push forward into the outdoor season.

“As a whole, I was definitely disappointed with how this race played out,” Raposo said. “My goal for Friday’s [preliminary] was to make the final, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to put that together this weekend. It was still [a] great learning experience to race at this stage, and I’m hoping to be able to use this experience to help me outdoors.”

In the 60-meter hurdles, Etkind posted an 8.36 mark to finish 14th. Like Watanabe, Etkind needed to finish within the top eight to advance to the finals. He was just 0.16 seconds behind eighth-place sophomore Thomas Oliver from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who posted a 8.21-second time.

This marks the end of the indoor track season for the Jumbos, as well as the end of Watanabe’s, Raposo’s and Etkind’s tenures as Tufts indoor track athletes. The three of them have been mainstays in not only Tufts indoor track, but also cross country and outdoor track as well. Watanabe has earned numerous honors and high-finishing times. He earned All-American honors two seasons in a row, placing eighth at the indoor championships in both 2017 and 2018.

Etkind has had a great career as well. He has qualified for nationals three times, earned a number of decisive results for the Jumbos and currently holds the Tufts record for the 60-meter hurdles at 8.16 seconds. Like Watanabe and Etkind, Raposo is a NCAA Championships veteran too. Last season, he finished eighth in the distance medley relay in a time of 10:00.49. The season before, he finished sixth in the mile and second in the distance medley relay.

For Raposo, the final meet of his indoor career was a memorable one.

“Having this past weekend be my final indoor race was bittersweet,” Raposo said. “Because the race was in Boston, it was amazing to have all of my teammates there and the atmosphere was amazing for racing, so it was honestly one of the most fun races I’ve run in a long time.”

With the end of the indoor season, the Jumbos are gearing up for the start of their outdoor track season. The outdoor season begins over Tufts’ spring break when the team will make its annual trip to Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif. The Jumbos will compete in the Ross and Sharon Irwin Collegiate Scoring Meet on March 16 and the PLNU Collegiate Invitational on March 23, both at Point Loma Nazarene University.

For now, the Jumbos are resting up before the start of the outdoor season.

“After our seasons end, each of us have taken or  are taking a little bit of time off to recover and recoup before the outdoor season, but we’ll all be back to running by the middle of this week.” Raposo said. “As a whole, the team is focusing our effort on the outdoor NESCAC championship. Over the next few weeks, our focus will be getting into peak form for outdoors through a strong training block and our training trip to San Diego over spring break.”

Coach Joel Williams does not anticipate much of a difference between the indoor and outdoor seasons.

“It’s business as usual,” Williams said. “We are practicing every day and working hard.”