The whole season came together on Friday and Saturday for the women's track and field team at the All-New England Championships. Multiple Jumbos posted personal bests while others qualified for the NCAA Championships as Tufts took ninth at the Boston University (BU) meet.
"It was just an unbelievable weekend and [we did] better than we thought that we would do," senior tri-captain Katie Sheedy said. "It's just crazy to have everybody do well at the same time."
Sheedy ran the 800-meter leg of the Distance Medley Relay (DMR). The DMR team took third place in the event and set a new school record (11:59.80), dropping ten seconds off of the time they ran at the St. Valentine's Invitational two weeks ago, which qualified the team provisionally for Nationals.
Freshman Katy O'Brien led off in 3:39, battling in a very competitive field, including Williams All-American senior Jenn Campbell.
"She was all over the track, running in lane two and surging ahead of people," Sheedy said of O'Brien. "She just stayed with everyone."
Senior Rachel Bloom ran the 400 leg and Sheedy took the baton for the 800. Walls anchored, fending off competitors from the University of New Hampshire and Trinity.
"We knew she could do it," Sheedy said of Walls. "She's really talented and she's been working out really hard. She ran really tough and really gutsy."
The DMR team's record-breaking third-place finish was ahead of UConn, Boston University and the University of Rhode Island.
"We beat the kids that get paid to run," coach Kristen Morwick said. "That's all I've got to say."
The DMR was among the many relay teams that had great performances for Tufts on Saturday. The 4x400 team shaved five seconds off their St. Valentine's Invitational time and ran 3:55.28, placing sixth.
Senior Claudia Clarke came through in 59.9, breaking 1:00 in the 400 for the first time in her career. Sophomore Jillian Warner followed in 58.2, a personal best for her. Freshman Kaleigh Fitzpatrick ran the third leg in 58.7 and Bloom anchored, running 58.2. The time is the second fastest 4x400 time in Tufts history, and puts the relay team in great position to make Nationals.
The 4x800 relay team broke the Tufts school record for the third time this season with a time of 9:15.17, 15 seconds better than its time last weekend at the New England Div. III Championships. Sophomore Kate Makai led off in 2:20 and Sheedy followed on the second leg, also in 2:20. O'Brien ran the third leg in 2:17.7 and Walls anchored in 2:16.5. Both Walls' and O'Brien's times would have qualified them provisionally for nationals in an open 800.
Besides relay teams, individuals had fantastic performances for the Jumbos. Freshman Catherine Beck smashed her previous best in the 5,000 by 15 seconds, running 17:39.57 and qualifying provisionally for Nationals.
"Beck is the most focused runner I have ever seen," Sheedy said. "She listens to what the coaches are telling her and she does it. She just picks people off and runs really smart. We're really excited for her, and that should be enough to get her in."
Sophomore Raquel Morgan also ran the 5,000, but her 18:15.03 was sub-par compared to her other performances this season. She has already qualified provisionally for Nationals and will look to improve her time next week so she can ensure her place at Illinois Wesleyan.
In the 800, sophomore Sarah Crispin made the finals and ran her personal best, indoor or outdoor, with a 2:15.80, qualifying her provisionally for Nationals. Crispin has battled health issues all season and has been limited to only a few races this
season, making a NCAA qualifying time that much more impressive.
"It felt good to race again," Crispin said. "I've been training with my friends the whole time. I've felt like I've been preparing with everyone else."
"Crispin has fought some demons and returned to being one of the top mid-distance kids in the region," Morwick said.
Warner ran a 58.35 in the 400, fast enough to provisionally qualify for Nationals, despite it being her third race of the weekend. Warner also turned in a 58.2 in the 4x400 relay and had to
run in the preliminaries for the 400.
"Warner has emerged as one of the top sprinters in New England," Morwick said.
Sophomore Kenzie Rawcliffe ran 8.77 in the 55 hurdles and made the finals. She is .17 seconds away from the NCAA provisional qualifying time and will go for the mark next weekend at the Last Chance Invitational at Yale.
Clarke ran 1:19.26 in the 500, in addition to her 4x400 performance. Freshman Jenna Weir turned in a new personal best in the triple jump with a 10.98 meter leap and freshman Anna Shih improved her own personal best in the 1,000 by four seconds, running 3:01.89.
Weir and Shih join Beck, O'Brien, Walls, and Fitzpatrick to form the cornerstone of a freshmen class that has been invaluable this season, while the rest of the team has risen to the challenge of leading this team. With the losses of seniors Jess Trombly, Emily Bersin, and Lauren Caputo as well as juniors Becca Ades (studying abroad), Megan Sears (injury), and Sika Henry and Melissa Gravely, who left for personal reasons, the Jumbos were not expected to perform at such a high level.
Heading to nationals this season for Tufts will be the DMR team, the 4x400 team, Warner in the 400, Crispin in the 800, and Morgan and Beck in the 5,000. Rawcliffe could very well join them.
"Everybody pulled together. There were no superstars. Everybody just did what they had to do," Crispin said. "There wasn't Jess Trombly winning five events. There was everybody running one good event and we all came together. Everybody did their piece."