In many of the athletes’ last chance to qualify for the Div. III NCAA Championships next week, the men’s and women’s track and field teams hosted the Tufts National Qualifying Meet on Saturday in the Gantcher Center. Although the cut-off for nationals is tough, with only the top 20in the nation able to qualify for individuals and the top 12 teams for relays, the athletes still performed extraordinarily well.
Senior Matt D’Anieri enhanced his already stacked national championship bid with a first place finish in the 800 meters at a time of 1:52.66 that gave him not only the top spot in the New England region of Div. III, but third place in the nation for Div. III. Junior co-captain Harry Steinberg placed seventh in the 3k meters with a time of 8:34.24, which currently ranks 40th in Div. III.
“I think it went really well for us — this was a type of meet where it was more about individual performances,” senior co-captain Roman Lovell said. “There can be a lot more pressure. The benefit of having it at home is that you can get a lot of teammates out to support us, and it really gives us an opportunity to better our marks, better our times.”
With this growth mindset, the relay teams for both the men’s and women’s side did particularly well this meet, improving drastically on their previous marks.
On the women’s side, the distance medley relay squad, comprised of sophomores Tara Lowhensohn and Hannah Neilon and seniors Julia Gake and Rhemi Toth, finished first in the event with a 11:54.85 time, ranking eighth nationally and qualifying for nationals.
The men’s 4 x 400 meters team, consisting of junior OJ Armstrong, sophomores Riley Patten and Sam Oomen-Lochtefeld and first-year Andrii Campbell, finished second in the meet with a time of 3:20.61. This time ranks them 27th nationally in Div. III.
Individually, Gake also finished second in the 400 meters with a time of 58.81 that ranks 36th nationally in Div. III. Gake expressed excitement at these dual successes and about the opportunity to race in the national meet.
Junior Melissa Rowland placed sixth in the 3k with a time of 10:02.12, her personal best, which is ranked 28th nationally in Div. III.
“Melissa Rowland in the [3000m] had a really good race, with a 30 second [personal record],” Gake said. “Unfortunately, she missed out on the national meet by one or two spots, but she had a great race.”
In spite of the fact that there was a lot of pressure on the individual athletes to qualify for the national meet, the team aspect was still intact and propelled a sense of belonging, even for those who did not qualify. This type of team camaraderie, along with youth and depth, is what has been driving the Jumbos’ success this season on both the women’s and men’s teams, especially going into the national stage.
“I think with the team that we have this year is a very young team, and we have a lot of depth, and that helps us build trust in each other,” Lovell said. “I think that really came out at the end of the season where at the three championships we had, a lot of people qualified, and we had [teammates] come up to Springfield to support us.” Lovell said.
Despite the success of the national qualifiers, the Jumbos remain grounded and committed to each other, and are scheduled to carry this mantra down south to Winston Salem, N.C, this weekend for the NCAA Div. III National Championships. Their excitement is unbounded.
“I was there two years ago,” Gake said. “It’s a really fun meet, seeing all the competitors out there.”