The men’s track and field team fought for every inch, second and mark, earning a runner-up finish at the 2012 NESCAC Championships at Bates on Saturday, a two-place improvement over last year’s fourth-place effort.
Among 11 teams, the Jumbos’ 146.25 points were bested only by the host Bobcats’ 156.25. Tufts distanced itself from Middlebury, which finished third with 124 points, while Williams and Bowdoin were fourth and fifth, with 111.74 and 104 points, respectively.
“I was happy with how it went,” senior tri-captain Adam Aronson said. “If you look at the numbers there weren’t terribly too many [personal records], but … [The energy] was great. We all went into this meet with our heads down looking ready to work hard, and we did just that.”
“Overall we were very happy,” junior Gbola Ajayi added. “Bates just had a better day than we did. [The competition this year] team-wise was stronger. There were five teams that could have won, as opposed to two, which has been the case every other year I have been here.”
The conditions on Saturday were not conducive to setting personal bests, but the Jumbos fought against the wind to top their competition.
“The conditions were pretty horrendous, but they affected us all equally,” Aronson said. “Coach [Ethan] Barron let us know that we would have to be tough as nails to compete, and we brought it. I couldn’t be more proud to be a member of the team. We fought harder than any team I have ever been on before.”
The squad was led by three victories and 19 additional top-five finishes on Saturday. The juniors demonstrated their strength throughout the day, with Jeff Marvel, Ajayi and Brad Nakanishi capturing the three first-place performances.
Marvel earned the lone win on the track, taking the 1,500-meter run in a time of 4:00.36 and edging out the runner-up by just 0.02 seconds in a sprint to the finish.
In the pole vault, which was held indoors because of inclement weather, Nakanishi cleared 15-3 to take the win, earning his second NESCAC title in the event. Sophomore Trevor Rothaus supported Nakanishi in the event with a fourth-place finish, clearing 14-3 1/4.
Ajayi contributed the final win to the Jumbos’ cause, leaping a new personal best distance of 23-4 3/4 for the top mark in the long jump by just over an inch. The mark ranks Ajayi 17th nationally in the event. Tufts earned 20 points in the long jump, with junior Michael Blair taking third with a jump of 21-7 1/4 and sophomore Andrew Osborne capturing fifth at 21-6.
Ajayi and Blair also each contributed a third-place finish in the jumps. Ajayi launched himself 46-5 1/2 in the triple jump, while Blair cleared the bar at 6-2 3/4.
“It was very gusty, so I think the conditions hurt because it made it difficult to know when to jump. ... On a gusty day like that, it doesn’t let you get into a rhythm,” Ajayi said of his triple jump.
The throws were another area of strength for the Jumbos, with five top-five finishes. Aronson took runner-up in the hammer throw, heaving it a distance of 167-0, and junior Curtis Yancy also placed well in the event, taking fourth with a throw of 161-11.
“I was content with how I did. It was over a meter off my [personal record], but I fought for that second place and Curtis did the same with his fourth-place finish,” Aronson said about the throws, which across the board were affected by the wind.
Yancy earned another fourth-place finish during the day in the discus throw with a launch of 140-4 and took fifth in the shot put with 45-9 3/4, behind freshman Brian Williamson, who finised in third with 49-3.
Back on the track, sophomore Daniel Lange Vagle earned two third-place finishes in the sprints. Lange Vagle’s times of 10.94 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 22.33 seconds in the 200-meter dash were good for top-three finishes in both events.
In the 400-meter hurdles, freshman Ptah Osayande was the runner-up, crossing the line in 55.54 seconds. Meanwhile, in the 400-meter dash, the Jumbos took home a pair of top-five finishes, with senior Ben Crastnopol finishing fourth and sophomore Graham Beutler finishing fifth, at times of 52.26 and 52.37, respectively.
In the 10,000-meter run, junior Tyler Andrew snagged fourth in a time of 31:41.25. Tufts also earned top-five finishes in the 4x100-meter, 4x400-meter and Distance Medley relays.
With stellar performances across the board, the Jumbos were pleased to improve two spots from 2011.
“I would say our team this year is very gritty, and this year our heavy-hitter guys are coming in first, second or third, instead of fourth, fifth or sixth, which is a huge difference in points,” Ajayi said. “The team has just matured from last year.”
The squad hopes to continue to improve on its standing in the NESCAC next year, when it will return many of its top athletes. All three Tufts victories came from juniors, and just two of the team’s top-five finishes came from seniors.
“The strength of our team is in our juniors. There is no doubt about that, so that is very exciting for ... going after the win next year,” Ajayi said.
Moving forward with the 2012 season, the squad will compete at MIT this weekend in the Div. III New England Championships.
“We’re going to go after Div. IIIs, and then after that the focus shifts to more individualized stuff. At the end of the season, the goal is getting national caliber guys to nationals,” said Ajayi, who has aspirations of earning nationals berths in the both the long and triple jumps. “Other than that, at this point, it is just about having fun and competing, since there’s not much more we can do between now and the season ends to make anyone that much better or faster.”
After the Div. III event this weekend, the squad has three more weeks of competition — the Open New England Championships, the ECAC Championships and finally the Div. III NCAA Championships on May 24 in California.