The Jumbos will enter the Lyons' den this Saturday as they head to central Massachusetts for the New England Div. III Championships. The Smith College Lyons will host the meet this year, the same meet that Tufts has placed second in for the last two seasons to a bunch of purple cows.
The clear favorite in this weekend's meet is Williams. The Ephs have taken first in seven out of the last eleven past Div. III championship meets and show no signs of slowing. Last weekend at Boston University, junior Katie Fulton set the 200 meter school record of 25.50, senior Kali Moody set the 800 school record with a 2:12.75, junior Katie Howard set a new school 400 mark with 58.20, the 4x400 relay set a record with a 3:52.07 and junior Caroline Cretti came close to the school mile record with a 4:55.41. Williams' spring semester does not begin until February, meaning athletes can spend the month of January training with no distractions.
"They not only cover every event with a good athlete, they have multiple good athletes (and scorers) in each event," coach Kristen Morwick said. "We can't even cover all the events, and when we do cover an event, we hope we have a scorer, never mind a guaranteed winner or multiple scorers. So it's an uphill battle."
Morwick coached at the school for four years before coming to Tufts in June of 2000. While she concedes that first place may be close to impossible for the Jumbos, Morwick believes that a three-peat of second place is certainly realistic.
"We need our key people to just do what they've been doing all year and they'll score for us," Morwick said. "I know our kids will step up and put up a good fight."
In the sprints, Tufts will rely on sophomores Jillian Warner and Kate Makai, junior Rachel Bloom, and senior Claudia Clarke. Warner will compete in the 55 meter dash, and both Warner and Bloom will run the 200. Makai and Clarke will try to score some points for the Jumbos in the 600, while Bloom will also compete in the 400.
The middle distance events will be in the hands of freshmen Laura Walls, Anna Shih and Katy O'Brien, sophomore Sarah Crispin, and senior tri-captain Katie Sheedy. Walls ran the mile last weekend as part of the Distance Medley Relay (DMR) team at Boston University, and will compete in the 800. Shih, Crispin, and Sheedy will form a strong pack in the 1,000, where the Jumbos hope to score big. O'Brien ran the 1,200 for the DMR last weekend and will run the 1,500 this weekend.
Freshman Catherine Beck, who narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships last weekend in the 5,000, will run the 3,000 on Saturday, with sophomore Raquel Morgan running the 5,000. In the field, freshman Jenna Weir, who took first in both the triple and long jumps last weekend at the Tufts Stampede, will join freshman Kaleigh Fitzpatrick in those events this weekend. Senior tri-captain Jessica Colby and freshman Sarah Martin will compete for the Jumbos in the weight throw and shot put.
The pentathlon will be an event for this weekend's meet, although it's only been offered at one meet this season (Dartmouth Relays - Jan. 9). Junior Daniela Fairchild and sophomores Kenzie Rawcliffe and Maggie Clary have been training all season to handle the pentathlon. Last season, junior Megan Sears, then-junior Melissa Gravely, and Fairchild took first, third, and fourth in the event. Despite the loss of Sears to injury, coach Morwick still believes the pentathlon will be a strong showing for the Jumbos.
"[Rawcliffe] has a real shot to win the [pentathlon], and Fairchild could be right there as well. [Clary] should be top six," Morwick said. "The [pent-athletes] should be huge for us."
The relays should be another opportunity for Tufts to place well. Warner, Clarke, senior Ayako Sawanobori, and freshman Joyce Uang will form the 4x200 relay. Both Warner and Clarke will run the 4x400 with Bloom and either Fitzpatrick and Makai. In the 4x800 relay, Walls, O'Brien, Sheedy, and either Shih or Makai will run. Crispin, Sawanobori, freshman Marissa Mann, and sophomore Samantha Moland will run the DMR.
While the Ephs are the likely favorite on paper, the Jumbos will not go quietly. Last season, Tufts was within five points of first until the final event, and Morwick hopes the team will contend once again.
"There's no magic to this meet. We are prepared. We have a great group of women on this team, and yes, we don't have the star power of a Williams," Morwick said. "But we have a lot of talent, heart, work ethic and spirit and some intangibles that can't be measured by the stats or rankings."
"It's always a toss-up, and you can never really know what's going to happen, but we're not very concerned about the teams behind us," senior tri-captain Emily Pfeil said. "We're much more concerned with getting as close as we can to Williams, and who knows? Maybe we can upset a streak."