Women's Cross Country | Strong pack running leads Jumbos to 11th at Open New England Championship
Tufts overcomes pile−up for high finish
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 01:10
Even cross country can sometimes be a contact sport, something that was on display Sunday as all seven Jumbos varsity runners went down in a pile−up on a turn 150 meters into the Open New England Championship at Westfield State.
But despite the accident, the Tufts women were able to rebound from the early chaos to place 11th in the field of 37 teams from all divisions.
Boston College was the class of the field, placing five runners in the top 20 to win the title with 45 points, followed by University of Vermont and Dartmouth College with 59 and 139 points, respectively. “Pile−ups are just part of the sport,” junior Laura Peterson said. “So it was good for us to experience one like that and learn to keep racing through it.”
Among Div. III teams, Tufts placed third, behind only MIT and Williams. The Engineers placed fifth with 198 points while the Ephs landed in eighth with 248 to beat the Jumbos’ 373. The day gave the Jumbos the opportunity to preview the course that will host the NCAA Div. III Regional Championships on Nov. 10.
The Tufts women took advantage, as the team’s top four runners finished in the top 80 of the 251−runner field. More importantly, they crossed the line within 11 seconds of each other, demonstrating their ability to work together and race as a pack.
Peterson led the way, finishing 59th in a time of 18:34 over the five−kilometer course. Four seconds back in 64th was junior Abby Barker. She was followed by senior tri−captain Lilly Fisher in 68th and freshman Olivia Beltrani in 79th.
The pile−up made running as a pack slightly more difficult, but the women were able to regroup and work together most of the way.
“All of us went down, but I just focused on getting to my feet as quickly as possible and moving up right away,” Barker said. “Although it wasn’t a huge setback, it did cause us to separate slightly, and we had to play catch−up with some of the other teams.”
Closing out the scoring for the Jumbos was junior tri−captain Madeleine Carey, who placed 103rd overall in a time of 19:01. Senior Julia Hajnoczky and junior Lauren Creath rounded out the varsity squad, placing 108th and 127th respectively.
Coach Kristen Morwick’s team was satisfied with the 11th place finish, an 11−spot improvement from last year’s showing. Making the feat even more impressive is the fact that the Jumbos were without their top runner from the first two races of the season, as freshman Audrey Gould sat out with tendonitis.
“Even though we were missing our top runner and our top seven got stuck in the pile−up, we still managed to come away with an 11−spot improvement from last year’s race,” Peterson said.
“That’s a substantial improvement. [It] shows how far we’ve come in a year,” Barker added.
The other primary objective for the squad was to evaluate the course that will host the national qualifying meet on Nov. 10. Although the flat, fast terrain has its perks, opinions are mixed on the overall quality of the course.
“The course was very fast, but there were a lot of issues that I hope will be resolved before Regionals,” Barker said. “Improving course markings and footing in the woods loop would make Regionals a more competitive and enjoyable race.”
Looking ahead, the squad will compete in the Connecticut College Invitational on Saturday before the postseason heats up with the NESCAC Championship on Oct. 27. The team’s confidence is certainly high moving forward.
“We don’t see ourselves as the underdog this season,” Peterson said. “We know we can compete with the top teams in our conference, so that is what we are working toward these next few weeks heading into the postseason.”