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

Women's track and field | Tufts hosts Round IV of Jumbos vs. Ephs

For much of the season, track athletes have tunnel vision.

Meets are about times, heights, and distances in order to qualify for bigger and better championship meets. But on Saturday, members of the women's track team will be looking into the lane next to them or the jumper or thrower ahead of them and seeing only the purple and yellow jersey.

Tufts has one goal this weekend, and that's to unseat the Williams Ephs as Div. III New England Regional Champions.

"I think we're always thinking, 'Where are we? Where is Williams?'" sophomore Catherine Beck said about this weekend's meet. "There are times when you want to beat other teams, but as the three-time champs, Williams is definitely the one we're looking at."

Tufts has finished as the runner-up to Williams in each of the past three seasons, most recently in a 212-125 loss. The next closest team to Tufts and Williams was Amherst, at 73 points. This weekend is all about the Jumbos and the Ephs.

The Jumbos will have the luxury of tackling the task from the friendly confines of the Gantcher Center, which will host the women's event for the first time in its seven-year history, creating an added incentive to win this year.

"You always think of home court advantage," senior tri-captain Megan Sears said. "There's that extra enthusiasm to take people down in our house. It's good to know the facility, especially for a lot of the field events."

Tufts may also have another advantage, as the Ephs appear to be resting their athletes in order to achieve a podium finish at the NCAA Championships.

Williams' team-operated website puts a top-four finish at Nationals on the top of the Eph's priority list.

"Williams is really looking long term," Beck said. "They're focusing on Nationals. This meet to them may not be as important and we may be able to catch them off-guard, and come on them when they least expect it."

Whether Williams is looking past this meet or not, it will be an uphill battle for the Jumbos. In the sprints loom Eph senior Katie Fulton and sophomore Carrie Plitt, two All-Americans who are seeded first and second in the 55 meter dash and first and third in the 200 meters, a huge advantage in a meet where the top eight finishers in each event score. Tufts will need its own All-American, sophomore Kaleigh Fitzpatrick, to get some points on the board to offset what should be strong events for the Ephs.

The Ephs also have the top two seeds in the 55 meter hurdles, an event in which Tufts was unable to qualify anyone. Additionally, Williams has an advantage in the shot put and the weight throw; it has three athletes competing in both events.

But Beck is not flustered by the Ephs' depth, and believes that the Jumbos will be able to keep pace.

"Points are going to pop up lots of places," Beck said. "A lot of people have been looking to this meet. This meet has been our focus. We're going to try to do everything we can to make this happen."

Some of those events in which the team hopes to gain an advantage are the 600 meters, the mile, and the 3,000. Senior tri-captain Rachel Bloom is seeded first in the 600 with junior Kate Makai seeded fifth, while Williams has only one competitor, seeded sixth.

Beck will run both the mile and the 3k, where the Jumbos should score easily. Beck, the top seed in the mile, is qualified provisionally for the NCAA Championships in the event and has sophomore Laura Walls joining her. The two will have to take on three Williams runners in the event, however, which will make it a pivotal race for the Jumbos as they hope for quality over quantity.

Senior tri-captain Becca Ades will toe the line with Beck in the 3k, an event that the Ephs have discarded. But Ades and Beck will have to battle the rest of the field, which includes top-seeded Heather Wilson of Amherst and third-seeded Ellen Davis of Wesleyan.

In the field events, the Jumbos will look to their sophomore trio of Jenna Weir, Kaleigh Fitzpatrick, and Joyce Uang to rack up some points in the jumps. Uang is seeded fourth in the high jump while Weir and Fitzpatrick are both top-10 in the long and triple jumps.

Additionally, Sears and teammates senior Daniela Fairchild, junior Maggie Clary, and freshman Kathleen Rutecki will look to add some points in the pentathlon. For Sears, who has worked to rehab a torn ACL, Saturday will be her first competition in the pentathlon in two years. She won the event at this meet two years ago, scoring 3,050 points.

"I'm really excited and I'm trying not to get too stressed out," Sears said. "I'm just trying to go out there and do the best I can. I'm trying not to get too nervous and compare myself to past performances."

If the Jumbos are going to unseat the Ephs, they will also need points out of their relays. The 4x200 meters, 4x400, 4x800, and the distance medley relays will be good opportunities to display the team's depth.

"We're definitely looking to score points in the relays," Sears said. "A lot of times people just look at their individuals to score points, but we've definitely put together strong relay teams."

But if Saturday is to bring a Tufts victory, the chips will have to fall the Jumbos' way.

"We definitely have a shot," Sears said. "We're just going to have to have a good day."