Jaidyn Appel, Lia Rotti win individual national championships in track and field

Junior Jaidyn Appel is pictured competing at the NCAA Division III National Championships. Courtesy Hannah Neilon

Tufts women’s indoor track and field team performed extremely well in the NCAA Division III Championships this past weekend. With four athletes competing in separate events, the team accrued 20 points all together, enough for an eighth place overall finish. Two Jumbos won individual national championships in their respective events, with junior Jaidyn Appel winning the high jump and junior Lia Rotti winning the triple jump.

The meet started off with two Tufts athletes competing in their respective events on Friday.

First-year Sarah Firth participated in the pole vault championships after coming in third place at the New England Div. III Championships. She managed to clear a height of 3.70 meters on her third attempt, but did not clear successfully at 3.75 meters. The 3.70 meters was enough for 11th place overall, and second among NESCAC competitors. Firth’s personal best vault was at a height of 3.87 meters earlier in the season but couldn’t quite manage to equal that during the meet. The winning jump was at 3.95 meters from Meghan Matheny of Ithaca College.

The next Jumbo to compete was senior co-captain Hannah Neilon. She ran in the 800-meter preliminaries on Friday, coming in 10th. The top eight times qualified for the finals, and Neilon was just .27 seconds off of the mark with a time of 2:14.24. She placed third among the NESCAC runners. Her personal best was a time of 2:12.12 in 2021, and she qualified for the NCAA Championships with a time of 2:13.92.

In terms of their seasons overall, both Neilon and Firth competed very well at the championship meet.

The Jumbos experienced a lot more success on Saturday through Rotti and Appel’s stellar performances.

Rotti, an athlete who participates in a wide range of events, qualified for the NCAA Championships in the triple jump by winning the New England Div. III Championships with a personal best 11.96 meter jump. This put her as the No. 8 seed entering the championships.

With six attempts to score the longest jump, Rotti’s first two jumps were already over her personal best, at 12.03 meters and 12.00 meters, respectively. With two jumps remaining, Rotti found herself in second place behind Jasmine Claunch of Centre College. On her next jump, Rotti mustered an incredible 12.40 meter jump, surpassing Claunch to take first place.

“I think that PR that came out on my fifth jump was really in response to realizing that I had to step up and do something or else I would lose the championship,” Rotti said.

When Claunch couldn’t respond on her final two jumps, Rotti was crowned the national champion. Her 12.40 meter jump, not only a lofty personal best, set a new school record by .20 meters.

Appel participated in the high jump later in the day on Saturday. Entering the championships, she was No. 2 behind Breya Christopher of Wartburg College.

“[Christopher] has kind of been … looking a little bit better than me this year in terms of just jumping higher, but I know that I’m someone who can use the energy of a big meet to get better,” Appel said.

She cleared the first six jumps on her first attempts, putting her in a one-on-one battle with Christopher for the title. On her third and final attempt at 1.76 meters, Appel cleared the bar. Christopher missed on her three attempts at 1.76 meters, and Appel won the championship.

The title winning jump set a new personal best for Appel, whose previous personal record was 1.73 meters last season. With the win, she became the first woman to win a high jump championship in Tufts history.

Rotti and Appel earned 10 points each for their respective wins, giving the team a total of 20 points. This put them in eighth place overall, securing a second consecutive top 10 finish for the Jumbos at the NCAA Championships.

Track and field will look to build off of this momentum as the team heads into the outdoor season.

“We had lots of people step up, particularly in New Englands … and we came very close to winning,” Rotti said. “I think that going into the outdoor [season] that puts us in a very good place.”


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