The Jumbos sent athletes to two different events Saturday: the Larry Ellis Invitational held at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. and the fourth-annual Sunshine Classic held at Tufts’ own Ellis Oval. These meets marked Tufts’ final regular-season competitions ahead of the NESCAC championships next weekend. The team performed well across both meets and claimed its first victory of the season at the Sunshine Classic.
At the Larry Ellis Invitational, only senior co-captain Hiroto Watanabe competed for the Jumbos. Athletes across all the collegiate athletic divisions participated in the meet, setting a high bar for the competition. Watanabe ran in the 800-meter race and placed seventh in his heat and 47th overall out of 61 runners with a mark of 1:55.83, besting several Div. I athletes in the process.
Watanabe remained unphased by the staunch competition.
“The competition was slightly better at Larry Ellis, but the main difference [was] that there was a larger abundance of talent at this meet in comparison to other meets,” Watanabe said. “It’s not really any different competing against different divisions, especially when the heats are split up by time.”
At the Sunshine Classic, Tufts had a great showing in the 200-meter, with four Jumbos placing within the top 10. Senior co-captain Tommy Miller placed second with a time of 21.93, good for a career-best.
“I thought I ran the race well, but it took awhile for the results to get back from the race because the wind had to be taken into account,” Miller said. “Then I saw my teammate who had run in that heat with me walk over, and when he told me I had run [a] 21.93, I was really amped up. I figured I had run fast, but I didn’t realize that it was that fast. With sprinting, it’s always hard to tell how well you did, so when I found out my time I felt really accomplished.”
Junior Jordan Abate and senior Tom Doyle followed Miller in the 200-meter with fifth- and sixth-place finishes, respectively. Behind Doyle was a familiar face the track and field program had not seen for a while, alumnus Nick Usoff (LA ’17). Usoff finished in seventh with a time of 23.03, showing that he still had his wheels even after graduating. Sophomore Vincent Avallone rounded out the top 10 for the Jumbos, finishing ninth with a time of 23.35.
The first-year runners put on a great display as well, winning two events. First-year Riley Patten won the 400-meter hurdles in a season-best time of 55.00. Fellow first-year Neerav Gade also took first place in his event, the 5k race, with a time of 15:22.98.
Along with two first-place finishes, Tufts also tallied four more victories across all of its events. Senior Josh Etkind ran a 14.82 in the 110-meter hurdles to take first place. Fellow senior Ben Wallace won the pole vault with a 14’5¼” mark. Junior Kevin Quisumbing won the shot put with a 50’8¾” mark. Then, to round out the first-place finishes for the Jumbos, the 4×100 relay team — comprised of seniors Brandon Levenstein, Anthony Kardonsky, Miller and sophomore OJ Armstrong — won their race with a time of 43.01 seconds.
Tufts accumulated 181 team points over the course of the event to take home a commanding victory. Second-place UMass Dartmouth earned 138 points. Husson University placed third with 125 points and Plymouth State took fourth with 109 points. Amherst finished in last place, with 87 points.
The Jumbos appreciated the victory, but as explained by Miller, felt more accomplished by their great performances across the board.
“Winning the meet was sort of an afterthought,” Miller said. “For the most part, everyone had really great performances and that’s what really mattered to us at the end of the day. Our performances are what we rally around and we try to use that momentum to bring us into the championship season where we hope it all comes together.”
Tufts will compete in the NESCAC championships on April 20 at Middlebury College.
The Jumbos have a host of highly competitive athletes, and Miller expressed that the team thinks it has a good shot at winning NESCACs.
“I think that we have a very strong team and have had a lot of great performances this season to get excited about as we look forward to NESCACs,” Miller said. “In most events, we have a few people [with] top-16 performances, so it will ultimately come down to who has the best day. Anyone outside of the top eight can end up scoring if things come together. At this point, we just have to trust that we have trained well up to this point and that it will all come together on the day of the meet. If we do that, I’d say we have a great chance.”
Watanabe echoed Miller’s sentiment.
“I think that the NESCAC championship meet will be very competitive,” Watanabe said. Right now, as far as performances go, I think that the meet will be between us and Middlebury, with Amherst close behind. I think we have a great chance to win; it’s just a matter of performing and doing what we’ve been doing all year.”