The Jumbos broke records, hit national qualifying times and had one of their strongest team performances in years on Saturday at the Div. III New England Regional Championships at the Gantcher Center.
But for the fourth year in a row, the Williams Ephs had an even better day.
Tufts' 122.33 points were second to Williams 154, as the Ephs took their fourth straight Div. III New England title and handed the Jumbos' their fourth straight second-place finish. Yet spectators were hard-pressed to find a Jumbo disappointed with the team's performance on Saturday.
"I feel really great about the team's performance," senior tri-captain Becca Ades said. "So many people set personal records, and the whole team was working really hard to beat Williams. I think we all knew that Williams was going to have to fall apart a bit for us to beat them and they didn't and there's nothing really we can do about that."
Coach Kristen Morwick knew a perfect storm would have to come together for the Jumbos to take the crown.
"When we saw the entries, we knew it was possible, but that we'd have to be great," Morwick said. "Everyone had to be great. And we almost did it. If two events go our way, it's anyone's meet. But what we did do in the end was great anyway, first or second place."
The most exciting race of the day was the mile, where sophomore Catherine Beck outkicked Williams senior Caroline Cretti, a four-time Div. III New England Regional Cross Country champion and repeat All-American, for the victory. The two pulled away from the pack with two laps to go and Cretti holding the lead. Beck tried to move around her on the far turn of the last lap, but stumbled trying to move on the inside. Cretti cut her off, and Beck pulled to the outside to set up a neck-and-neck race for the last 50 meters. Beck pulled away in the final 30 meters, taking the victory in 5:00.66.
"That was huge for Beck, but I don't think she lacks confidence either," Morwick said of Beck's racing style. "She's a smart racer and will try anything. The best athlete and competitor won."
Sophomore Laura Walls added a seventh place finish in a deep mile field. Her time of 5:05.74 was a four-second improvement on her personal best.
That wasn't the end of the day for Beck, who also took second in the 3,000 meters. The 15-lap race came down to a lean at the line between Beck (9:54.57) and Wesleyan junior Ellen Davis (9:54.55). Ades took sixth in the event (10:13.36), sprinting past a handful of runners in the final laps to set a new personal record.
Middle distance showcased some fantastic Tufts performances on Saturday. Junior Sarah Crispin set a new school record by running and winning the 1,000 meters in 2:59.11.Sophomore Katy O'Brien's second-place finish in the 800 qualified her provisionally for nationals and set a four-second personal record (2:14.61).
"[Crispin] knew she was going to get the school record, and she got it," Ades said. "It's really inspirational to have people like that on your team."
The team also put together a record-breaking 4x800 meter relay. The team of O'Brien, Crispin, Walls and junior Kate Makai set a new meet record and posted the second-fastest time in Tufts history, winning the 4x800 in 9:28.12.
Senior tri-captain Rachel Bloom offered a slew of strong performances, winning the 600 meters (1:37.23) and adding two strong legs in the 4x200 and 4x400 relays. Her time in the 600 was the third-fastest in Tufts history and her anchor leg of the 4x200 single-handedly took the relay from fifth to second.
"She's a different runner in relays and doesn't care about pace or going out too hard," Morwick said. "She's just really aggressive and it's so good for the younger kids to see that because she leads all the workouts and they know when it comes down to fighting for the team, she's leading the way."
But the Jumbos found themselves outscored 36-8 in the 55 dash and 200, and 24-13 in the long and triple jumps. Williams also added an 18-point cushion from the 55 hurdles, as all three Eph runners scored in an event in which no Tufts runners were entered.
Sophomore Kaleigh Fitzpatrick scored 19 points on her own on Saturday, placing in four different events (55 dash, 200, long jump, triple jump). Freshman Jackie Ferry took fifth in the 400, running 1:00.43.
The Jumbos also had strong representation in the pentathlon with senior Megan Sears taking fifth (2,881 points) in one of the strongest pentathlon fields in years. Junior Maggie Clary added a seventh-place finish (2,808) and senior Daniela Fairchild came within 11 points of eighth, but her efforts were sunk by a bad race in the 55 hurdles.
In the throws, sophomore Sarah Martin took seventh in the weight throw (44'08.75") and freshman Paula Dorman added a fourth-place finish, setting another personal record with a throw of 40'02.25".
Dorman secured a bit of poetic justice on the day, remembering that Williams coach Ralph White told her he had no room for a 33' shot putter on his team.
Finally, the relays helped the Jumbos stay competitive. Freshmen Aubrey Wasser and Halsey Stebbins joined Bloom and sophomore Erica Steinitz to take second in the 4x200 in 1:48.55. Ades, Steinitz, sophomore Anna Shih, and freshman Susan Allegretti managed to take sixth in the DMR despite a field of tough competition.
The 4x400 relay of Wasser, Ferry, Bloom, and sophomore Joyce Uang beat a tough Williams relay squad by just 0.09 seconds to take first (4:01.55). Ferry held off Williams freshman Heather Bemis in the final lap and the Jumbos were able to win the relay without the help of All-American Fitzpatrick.
"It came down to the final stretch and Jackie held her off," Morwick said. "It was a fantastic job by a freshman in a tough anchor leg and it was so nice to beat Williams in the relay they pride themselves on."
It came down to the final stretch and Jackie held her off. It was a fantastic job by a freshman in a tough anchor leg and it was so nice to beat Williams in the relay they pride themselves on.