Women's Cross Country | Gould qualifies for Nationals, Jumbos place sixth at NCAA Regional
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 07:11
A finish in the top five at Saturday’s NCAA Regional Championship at Westfield State would have sent Tufts to the NCAA Championship this weekend in Terre Haute, Ind. But the Jumbos fell just short, placing sixth out of 51 teams.
Regional Champion MIT and runner-up Williams claimed the two automatic qualifying spots, while Middlebury, Bates, and Amherst earned at-large berths. The Jumbos finished only 20 points short of the fifth-place team.
Even though the team came up short, Tufts will still be represented at the national meet. Freshman Audrey Gould placed 19th in the field of 367 to claim the final of seven individual qualifying spots. She clocked in at a time of 22:12 over the six-kilometer course, finishing first for the Jumbos for the fifth time this season. Of all the freshman runners, only Nicole Zeinstra of MIT bested Gould’s time.
“We’re so proud of Audrey for qualifying,” senior tri-captain Lilly Fisher said. “She’s incredibly talented and worked very hard, but she’s also a natural racer. She knows how good she is and isn’t afraid to run with the front of the pack.”
Running at the NCAA Championship is sure to be a valuable experience for the rookie Jumbo. Although she’ll be racing in an unfamiliar environment without her teammates, the squad still has plenty of confidence in her capabilities.
“Audrey is a very talented runner,” junior tri-captain Madeleine Carey said. “She ran at some high-caliber races in high school, so I think she will rise to the occasion at NCAA’s.”
Gould was not the only member of the team to turn in an impressive performance on Saturday. Junior Abby Barker was only six seconds behind Gould in 27th, and with the top-35 finish, she earned All-Region honors for the first time in her career.
“I pushed through and moved up places in the last mile of the race,” Barker said. “One of my goals for the season was to be All-Region, so I’m happy I was able to achieve that.”
Next to finish for Tufts was senior Julia Hajnoczky, who clocked a time of 22:39 to place 43rd overall. Meanwhile, freshman Olivia Beltrani and Carey closed the scoring for the Jumbos as Beltrani placed 48th in a time of 22:45, while Carey clocked a 23:07 for 73rd.
Fisher and junior Laura Peterson rounded out the varsity squad, placing 75th and 78th respectively.
Saturday’s result was not the way the team wanted to end the season, as the Jumbos had hopes of returning to the NCAA Championship, where they placed 20th last year. Unfortunately, the national-qualifying meet fell short of expectations.
“Sometimes, it’s just not your day,” Carey said. “Obviously we would like to be running in Indiana this weekend. I think everyone is spending some time thinking about what they can do individually to make the team stronger as a whole.”
Although the squad followed through with their plan to race aggressively, the strategy didn’t propel the Jumbos into the top five.
“We definitely got out better and more courageously [than at NESCACs],” Fisher said. “Even though it didn’t end up getting us a trip to Indiana, I think we can all take comfort in the fact that we followed our plan and put ourselves out there.”
The team had plenty of bright spots this season and will have a deep and talented group returning next year. The Jumbos will look to showcase their talent when it matters most, something they failed to do this season.
“Despite all the talent on the team, we had a hard time putting together all the pieces on one given day,” Barker said. “I don’t think our finish at NESCACs or Regionals is indicative of how much our team has improved since last year. We need to learn how to race well when it counts so we can show that.”
For now, the Jumbos will turn their attention to Gould’s run at the NCAA Championship. As is tradition, the team said that as many as fifty fans may drive out to Indiana to cheer on the talented freshman. There is certainly no shortage of excitement and confidence about what she can accomplish.
“I think she is one of the top freshmen in the country,” Barker said. “I’m excited to see how she will finish.”