Men’s Track and Field | Tufts finishes 14th at Indoor Nationals
Meet highlighted by thrilling Distance Medley Relay
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 01:03
After enduring the ups and downs of the 2012-2013 indoor season, the Tufts delegation to track and field Nationals at North Central University in Naperville, Ill., sought not only to improve upon last year’s 17th-place finish, but also to win a first-ever national title.
The weekend kicked off with a bang — and the Jumbos’ best chance at a win — on Friday when the Distance Medley Relay team, comprised of senior tri-captain Jeff Marvel, junior Graham Beutler, freshman Mitchell Black and junior Jamie Norton went off in the day’s final event.
Throughout the race, the Jumbos went neck-and-neck with a formidable University of Wisconsin-La Crosse squad, which wound up as the lone foursome to crack the 10-minute barrier, beating out the Jumbos by less than a second.
In a race that started off a bit slowly and forced the teams to stick to their pre-race tactics, the Jumbos stayed technically sound and keenly aware in each facet of the race. They never got boxed in, executed flawless handoffs — almost always near the front of the pack — and ran their individual legs strategically to prime themselves for the finish.
After more than nine minutes, on the final lap of the race, junior Jamie Norton made his move to the front of the pack, but was unable to hold off junior David Stilin from UW-La Crosse, who outkicked Norton and secured the win for the Eagles. But Norton’s effort was enough to give Tufts a second-place finish, less than one second behind — a finish one place higher than their seed and Tufts’ best finish at the NCAA indoor nationals since 2008.
“We’re very happy with our finish,” Marvel said. “It definitely would have been nice to win a national title, but we are thrilled to have finished second and beaten some very talented teams. In the moment it was a little disappointing, but that feeling didn’t last very long.”
The DMR’s top-10 finish also meant that each member of the relay team was named an All-American, the second year in a row that the DMR has placed among the 10 best teams in the country.
Marvel and Beutler earned the honor for a second time, while Black and Norton earned their first.
Marvel finished fifth last year in the 800-meter run, and Beutler, the only remaining member of the DMR squad from last year, finished eighth with that group.
“The DMR is the gold standard for track programs because to finish in the top five you really need two national-caliber milers and two national-caliber middle distance runners, which a lot of programs don’t have,” Marvel added. “It was a great display of the depth our program has.”
Off the track, seniors Michael Blair and Curtis Yancy were also in action on Friday in the heptathlon and the weight throw, respectively.
Blair was in eighth place after four events, and finished in 11th with a grand total of 4,770 points, 230 off from his school-record tally of 4,900.
Yancy, who came in last place a year ago after fouling on each of his three attempts in the weight throw, submitted a toss of 51 feet 6 and 1/2 inches to claim the 12th spot.
In the team standings, the Jumbos sat in sixth place after day one but moved down the leaderboard into 14th after day two, as senior triple-jumper Gbola Ajayi was the only Jumbo competing on Saturday.
On his first jump, Ajayi tweaked his ankle but still managed to power through to record a solid distance.
“I was satisfied with my performance overall but disappointed that an injury prevented me from really jumping up to my capabilities,” he said.
Ajayi wound up with his second consecutive All-American honor as he placed seventh with a distance of 48 feet 4 inches, a mark identical to his jump last year at the same meet. Last year, however, he finished one place higher.
“Once I get to Nationals, where I finish is not terribly important to me as long as I’m on the podium and earn All-American honors,” he said. “There really is no difference between sixth, seventh or even eighth — it’s all the same.”
When all was said and done, Tufts managed a 14th-place team finish in Naperville, improving three places from last year’s finish.
This was an especially impressive result considering how few athletes made the trip.
Half of the group finished as All-Americans, while the other half missed out on the honor by no more than two places.
The team was satisfied with its overall performance, as the Jumbos proved once again that they were able to hang with the best of the best.
And, for the seniors slated to graduate in May, the meet even proved poignant.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my indoor career,” Marvel said.