Women’s Cross Country | Barker paces Tufts in win at Conn. College
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 08:10
Senior tri-captain Abby Barker, who was named the NESCAC Performer of the Week for women’s cross country as a result of her showing, crossed the finish line first for the Jumbos at Harkness State Park on Saturday as Tufts took first place in the Connecticut College Invitational. Barker finished the 6-kilometer course in 21:57, which was good for third overall at the meet.
Winning the meet for the second year in a row, Tufts’ score of 52 points easily beat the second place score of 97 points, posted by Ohio Wesleyan. The closest competition for Tufts from another NESCAC team came from Conn. College, which placed sixth with 194 points.
Barker’s first-place finish within the team makes her the third runner to place first for the Jumbos in just four meets. The diverse number of front-runners for Tufts shows the depth that the team has at the top, which will be crucial for success this season.
Sophomore Olivia Beltrani finished second for Tufts, crossing the finish line in 22:09 and placing seventh overall. Right behind her was classmate Audrey Gould, who placed eighth overall with a time of 22:15. Senior tri-captain Lauren Creath finished next for the Jumbos with a time of 22:25, placing her 11th overall. Rounding out the scoring for Tufts was senior Molly Mirhashem, placing 23rd with a time of 22:52.
The team’s strong performance in just its second “6k” race of the season shows a mental toughness as well as physical strength.
“[In a ‘6k’ race] you have an extra 0.6 miles in the middle where you really have to focus on not slowing down,” Gould said. “It’s not like a ‘5k’ when you start the third mile and can cruise to the finish. That last mile becomes a real test of mental toughness in the ‘6k.’”
The course itself made the race a little bit more difficult as well.
“The course is, like most other courses we run this year, very flat,” Gould said. “It consisted of mostly loops on grassy fields with a few patches of sand that made it difficult at points because we sunk in and used a lot of energy getting through those sandy spots.”
The team’s 55-second 1-5 spread was as strong as it has been all season, and will be even more crucial as the team prepares for important upcoming meets. The Jumbos have a couple of weeks off before their next race, which is the NESCAC Championship meet. The team’s performance at Conn. College is a positive sign in light of its NESCAC title hopes.
“At this point in the season, we need to focus on being at our peak condition both physically and mentally,” Barker said. “We’ve been building mileage and training hard since June, and it’s time to back off a little so our legs are fresh for NESCACs and Regionals. Similarly, we’ve spent the past four races figuring out how to race well as a team. Now we have to focus on putting ourselves in the race and being confident in our ability to run with the front pack.”
While the Jumbos are currently firing on all cylinders, they have to make sure not to peak too soon.
“It’s also at a point in the season where the workouts from August and September are really evident in our fitness level,” Barker said. “I think that what can be difficult about this race is that we should not be in our peak shape yet. We still have a solid four or five weeks left with some of our important races, and we need to challenge ourselves to keep improving and not be content with any performance.”
The team’s success this weekend does not mean much in terms of its goals for the season. For the Jumbos, there is much more work to be done.
“Now that championship season is here, the team is really focusing on the little things like sleep, stretching and taking care of our bodies,” Gould said. “NESCACs is going to have a lot of really talented teams, so we are prepared for that but confident that if we run as well as we can, there’s no reason we can’t beat a lot of them.”