Men's Track & Field | Distance Medley Relay joins other Jumbos headed to Nationals
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 06:03
With the Tufts Men’s Track and Field athletes granted one final opportunity to springboard to nationals, the Jumbos split up this past weekend in the hope of improving everyone’s chances of qualification. The ECAC Division III Championships at the Armory in New York City started off the pressure−filled weekend on Friday, followed on Saturday by the Last Chance Meet held in the Gantcher Center at Tufts.
Senior Gbola Ajayi kicked off the mad pursuit of qualifying marks in style on Friday when he improved on his distance in the triple jump, one that was already good enough for a spot at nationals.
On his fourth jump, Ajayi leapt 48 feet one and one−quarter inches to boost his national ranking to 10th. He placed second in the event, finishing less than eight inches behind sophomore Jamie Ruginski of Southern Maine.
“Some of the things we worked on in practice last week really paid dividends,” Ajayi said “[I] finally had some consistency, so I was happy about that, but there is definitely more in the tank.”
He was accompanied by senior tri−captain Brad Nakanishi, who tied for fifth in the pole vault with his effort of 15 feet three and three quarter inches. That clearance fell just short of his season−best mark of 15 feet five inches.
“For me personally, Friday was definitely a step forward,” Nakanishi said. “I started working my top on the 15−foot seven−inch poles, but it was not a large enough step forward to get me over a bar higher than 4.67 meters.”
Although the Jumbos sent only two participants to the Armory on the first day of the meet, the two combined for 11 points, which left the Jumbos tied for fifth. Ajayi and Nakanishi headed back up to Tufts after their respective events, however, leaving the Jumbos without any competitors for the second day of competition.
The majority of those in contention competed on Saturday at the Last Chance Meet, with Nakanishi joining them to try to best his performance from the prior day.
The Distance Medley Relay team assembled for the occasion, the first true ‘A’ squad of the season, and ran a particularly fast race to win all the way into a tie for the third spot in the country this year.
Senior Jeff Marvel ran a swift first leg, emerging near the head of the pack before handing off to junior Graham Beutler. Beutler himself ran an impressive second leg and handed off to freshman upstart Mitchell Black, who passed to the foursome’s anchor, Jamie Norton. Over the last 1,600 meters, Norton clocked a time of 4:12 to earn the Jumbos a tie for second place with Bates.
Geneseo State won the event in a time of 9:56.22, the fastest time in the country this year. Tufts and Bates tied for second with a time of 9:58.30, and in a tie for third nationally.
The other relay team attempting to qualify was not as successful but turned in a solid time nonetheless. Beutler, Black, senior Vinnie Lee and freshman Alex Kasemir recorded a time of 3:20.82 for second place, a mere two seconds slower than Williams’.
Their time was the 23rd best in the country, but it was far from cracking the top−10 teams who are selected for nationals.
Tufts fared pretty well in the individual track events. Senior Matt Rand earned a third place finish in the 5,000 with his time of 14:53.10. Not far behind him was junior Ben Wallis, who recorded a time of 14:55.46 to finish in fourth. Senior Tyler Andrews also ducked under the 15−minute barrier, completing the race in 14:58.76 to place ninth.
“The pacers took the race out at 14:30 pace because that’s what we thought we needed for nationals,” Rand said. “Unfortunately, none of us could hold that pace [during] the second half of the race.”
Off the track, Nakanishi, putting his body to the test with a second consecutive day of pole−vaulting, came up short yet again, unable to register a clean vault.
“I tried a second time within 24 hours at hitting a traveling mark in the pole vault,” Nakanishi said, attributing his performance in part to the physical strain he endured. “I had great warm−ups but couldn’t carry the same technique into the competition with a bar up. Again, this meet was another step in the right direction with the 15−foot seven−inch poles despite the results, numerically speaking.”