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

Women's Track and Field | Season Wrap-up

The winter season was nothing short of impressive for the women's track team. After losing a number of very good runners, the team coasted on the success of a mix of freshmen and veteran runners all the way to the NCAA Championships, sending four runners more than last year.

"People just really wanted it, and it's not that they didn't want it last year," senior tri-captain Emily Pfeil said. "It just really came together. We had a lot of young runners that just thrived with the team atmosphere."

This team entered the season knowing they would be without many of their top runners from last season, such as Lauren Caputo, Jess Trombly and Emily Bersin. Additionally, juniors Sika Henry and Melissa Gravely chose not to compete this year for personal reasons, while junior Becca Ades, the top distance runner on the cross country team, was abroad. Junior Megan Sears suffered an ACL tear, leaving the team's top pentathlete sidelined for the season.

But the indoor track season also followed a tough cross country season where the women's team missed a trip to the NCAA Championships by just seven points. The cross country women came in knowing how close they had been and what could be accomplished in the future.

The distance team that formed from that cross country team helped set the tone this season. Senior tri-captains Katie Sheedy and Pfeil, sophomores Sarah Crispin, Kate Makai, Sam Moland, Jenny Torpey, Raquel Morgan, and freshmen Catherine Beck, Katy O'Brien, Laura Walls and Anna Shih formed a solid core of hardworking distance runners.

That group joined with strong competitors in both the sprints and the field. Junior Rachel Bloom, the only returning member from last season's Nationals team, joined seniors Claudia Clarke and Ayako Sawanobori, sophomore Jillian Warner, and freshmen Kaliegh Fitzpatrick, Jenna Weir and Joyce Uang in the sprints.

As the outline of the team took shape, the squad won regularly with huge contributions from the freshmen. They took first in two of the three Tufts Invitationals and also won at Bowdoin. Walls, O'Brien, Beck, Shih, Fitzpatrick and Weir were having great performances as the freshmen started leading the team.

"I was really surprised," Warner said. "Since the transition to college is so difficult, I thought a lot of the freshmen would be timid coming to the track team, but they all came together and basically took over. It helped us because I think a lot of people were discouraged because we basically graduated a lot of good runners."

By the time the team reached the St. Valentine's Invitational at Boston University, qualifying for nationals became a reality instead of just a goal. The DMR team of O'Brien, Bloom, Sheedy and Walls ran 12:09.99 to provisionally qualify for nationals.

The following week, the team traveled to Smith College for the New England Div. III Championships, where they pulled together to take second against a tough Williams team.

From there, the Jumbos went on to the All New England Championships, which proved to be the season's highlight. The same distance medley relay team set a new Tufts record and qualified for nationals, running 11:59.80. The 4x400 relay team of Clarke, Bloom, Warner and Fitzpatrick, which finished a few tenths of a second away from a national qualifying time at the St. Valentine's meet, ran the second fastest time in Tufts history in the 4x400 with a 3:55.28.

The 4x800 meter relay team of Makai, Sheedy, O'Brien, and Walls broke the school record just set the previous week by fourteen seconds, running 9:15.17. And Warner, Beck, and Crispin all qualified individually for events at nationals. Beck ran 17:39.57 in the 5,000, smashing her old previous best by fifteen seconds. Crispin ran a personal best of 2:15.80 in the 800 and Warner ran a 58.35 in the 400 to qualify for nationals.

"It just seemed like all of everyone's hard work paid off in that one weekend," Warner said.

Senior tri-captain Jess Colby ended her indoor career at Tufts by putting her name in the record books the following week at Trinity's Last Chance Invitational when she threw for 13.90 meters in the weight throw, beating the old record of 13.86.

The team then sent nine women (two relays and two individuals) to nationals. The DMR, the 4x400 relay teams, Crispin and Beck traveled to Illinois Wesleyan to compete at the NCAA Championships.

Crispin ran a new personal best of 2:15.46 in the preliminaries of the 800 and earned All American status, as did the 4x400 team, which qualified for the finals and finished sixth in 3:58.76. But the distance medley relay team finished last in the event and Beck did not finish her 5,000 due to injury. Three of the four freshmen, Beck, O'Brien and Walls, had tough trips, as each had sub-par performances.

But with five All Americans, the future looks bright for the spring season. Coach Kristen Morwick brought home NCAA New England Region Coach of the Year in addition to the All American awards.

"In outdoor it gets harder to qualify but I think we should have the same goals trying to qualify people in individuals and relays," Pfeil said. "The goal is just to try and maintain the quality of performances of the team."