The women’s track and field team competed at the New England Div. III Championships held at Middlebury on Friday and Saturday, placing third place for the second year in a row.
First-year Lia Rotti tied the Tufts record in the long jump event, posting a distance of 18’ 6”, a mark set by Vera Stenhouse’s (LA’91) in 1991. Rotti’s 18’ 6” jump was also enough to earn her first place in the event and currently ranks her 15th in Div. III.
“I’ve been slowly improving my marks all season thanks to some great coaching, but this was an especially big personal record for me,” Rotti said. “I’m also especially glad I seemed to have been at peak performance at Div. III New Englands to score some team points.”
Rotti also found success in the triple jump, posting a 38’ 9 ¾” mark to take third at the meet, which currently ranks eighth nationally in Div. III.
The Jumbos had a slew of other racers post nationally ranking times. Senior Sabrina Gornisiewicz competed in the 3k and took third with a time of 10:02.12, which is currently good for 22nd nationally. Sophomore Hannah Neilon had an especially impressive performance at the meet, taking first place in the 800 meters with a time of 2:16.23. This time is currently ranked 20th nationally in Div. III. Neilon’s first place finish was the second year in a row that she had won a New England Div. Championship title; she took first place in the 600 meters last year.
“It felt great to win the 800s at [the Championship] definitely like lots of hard work had paid off,” Neilon said. “I could hear my team cheering as I went around the track and it really helped me through the race. Once I crossed the line there were lots of hugs and high-fives being exchanged and it was a great experience.”
Other notable performances included sophomore Tara Lowensohn’s 2:59.54 in the 1,000 meters which earned her second place in the event and senior co-captain Julia Gake’s third place finish in the 600 meters with a time of 1:37.51.
Along with Rotti’s record-tying performance in the high jump, a number of other Jumbos also had success in the field events. Sophomore Kathryn Ezeoha finished fifth place in the triple jump with a distance of 36’ 9 ¾” and first-year Jaidyn Appel took fourth in the high jump with a mark of 5’ 5”.
Overall, Tufts earned 88 total team points, finishing behind second place MIT (96.5 points) and first place NESCAC rival Williams (159 points). Out of the 26 teams competing at the event, the Jumbos finished third overall.
“Third place as a team was our goal, so we were definitely happy,” Neilon said. “A lot of people stepped up and scored big points which was crucial. It’s also exciting that we weren’t too far off from second place. Based on this weekend, second place as a team at outdoor New England’s is definitely something we can shoot for.”
Now, the Jumbos are looking ahead to their next challenge — qualifying for the NCAA Div. III Championship. The last chance to qualify will be this weekend, when the team hosts the Tufts National Qualifying Meet on Saturday.
“We are trying to get some of our athletes healthy and prepared for the upcoming Tufts National Qualifier meet this weekend,” Rotti said. “Hopefully the team will turn out some more great performances so we can get more people to Div. III Nationals.”
Neilon remains optimistic about securing a spot at the national meet, which is scheduled for Mar. 13 and 14 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“It’s still not 100% certain that I’ll make nationals, since the rankings could switch this weekend, but so far it’s looking good and I’m very excited,” Neilon said. “We’re going to try to secure our distance medley relay [team] a spot at [Tufts National Qualifying Meet] on Saturday, and we have a great team with a lot of camaraderie. My plan is to continue to work hard, hydrate and get good rest so that I can do my part to help get us there.”