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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Women's Track and Field | Jumbos have one 'last chance' to qualify for Nationals at invitational

The name of this weekend's meet says it all. The Jumbos will be competing at the Trinity Last Chance Invitational at Yale today. It's the last opportunity for many athletes to try to qualify for NCAA Championships, which take place next weekend at Illinois Wesleyan.

"We have a lot of national qualifiers right now," senior tri-captain Emily Pfeil said. "This is a chance to try to get some more, and make any last minute improvements to assure a spot on the list."

The distance medley relay team of senior Katie Sheedy, junior Rachel Bloom, and freshmen Laura Walls and Katy O'Brien currently holds the fifth fastest time in the country for Div. III and has an NCAA bid locked. Freshman Catherine Beck is 11th right now in the nation in the 5,000 meters, as is sophomore Sarah Crispin in the 800. Sophomore Jillian Warner's 58.55 seconds - converted because of the undersized track at Boston University - puts her 13th in the nation in the 400.

Yet, more women would like to join them at nationals. The 4x400 team of Bloom, Warner, senior Claudia Clarke, and freshman Kaleigh Fitzpatrick are currently seventh in the nation in Div. III. But a faster time would put the team in a more certain position since only ten teams get bids for nationals.

"The 4x400 will race again with a new order to see if we can get a little more out of that group," coach Kristen Morwick said. "Last week's time should be pretty safe, but I think we can run a bit faster with a new order."

Fitzpatrick will lead off, followed by Bloom, Clarke and finally Warner, who will anchor the relay. The team will run against Wheaton and Lincoln, two teams who have also both qualified provisionally for nationals but have slower times than Tufts. Tufts holds a 3:56.08 while Wheaton has 3:56.69 and Lincoln has 3:58.94.

Morwick expects the team to run a faster time this weekend because the runners will have had more rest. Bloom and Warner will run in the open 200 to warm up for the 4x400 relay, while both Clarke and Fitzpatrick will be fresh. Only Fitzpatrick was fresh for the relay last weekend.

"We just have to make sure we're all healthy and focused on running fast," Warner said. "We worked on handoffs this week, and the team's chemistry has gotten much stronger since the beginning of the season so I'm sure we'll be able to perform at our best."

Sophomore Raquel Morgan has also already qualified provisionally for Nationals in the 5,000, but since she is only 19th, with a 17:52.16, on the performance list, she will be looking for a faster time this weekend to ensure a spot. Last season at Nationals only fourteen runners competed in the 5,000.

Sophomore Kenzie Rawcliffe will look to hit a provisional qualifying mark in the 55 hurdles this weekend. She needs 8.60 seconds or better to provisionally qualify. Last weekend at the All-New England Championships she ran 8.77. Realistically, though, she'll need to hit 8.57 or better, since 8.57 is currently 16th best on the performance list. Only sixteen athletes competed last season at nationals in the 55 hurdles.

"For me it depends mostly on what mental state I'm in," Rawcliffe said. "I can't let myself get distracted by any other thoughts other than 'go faster.'"

The hurdles can be frustrating for competitors because of the emphasis on form, repetition, and technique. A misstep or missed hurdle can mean the difference between a trip to nationals or staying home. However, Rawcliffe enjoys the intricacies of the event and the determination necessary for success.

"I really have to be in tune with my body and understand how my joints and muscles are working together," Rawcliffe said. "Once you get the basics down you really have to be able to concentrate on your movements and be aware of everything you're doing."

Freshman Jenna Weir will also take another shot at qualifying for nationals. She jumped 10.98m last weekend in the triple and will need 11.18 to qualify provisionally. In the long jump, she will need 5.73 meters to qualify, while her current best is 5.15.

"The girls are capable of achieving whatever they set their sights on. We proved that last weekend with some standout performances," Pfeil said.

The Jumbos already headed to nationals will also be running this weekend to tune up for next week. In the distance medley relay, Crispin will run the 1200 leg, senior Ayako Sawanobori will run the 400, O'Brien will run the 800, and Beck will anchor the mile. Walls will join sophomore Kate Makai and freshman Anna Shih in the 800. All three will look to qualify provisionally for nationals, although Walls has qualified with the DMR, and will need a 2:17.70 on the banked track at Yale. Sheedy will compete in the 600 with teammates junior Daniela Fairchild and sophomore Maggie Clary. Senior tri-captain Jess Colby and freshman Sarah Martin will also compete in both the weight throw and shot put after taking last weekend off.

"Getting in an extra race for some people is very valuable, and with nationals over a week away, you hate to have kids sit idle for two weeks before the biggest championship of the season," Morwick said. "Unless they are injured or sick, they need to compete."