The members of the women's 4x400 meter relay team went into Friday's Trinity College Last Chance Meet at Yale with their backs to the wall. They had one more opportunity to get a competitive qualifying time for the NCAA Championships and it was an uphill battle.
Most other teams heading to Nationals had the times they wanted going into this weekend, so the Jumbos were in the unenviable position of trying to get a fast time by themselves, no easy task in an event like the 4x400 relay, where pacing is crucial.
Taking first place easily, the team of senior tri-captain Rachel Bloom, sophomores Kaleigh Fitzpatrick and Joyce Uang, and freshman Jackie Ferry ran 3:56.17 to beat second place Springfield by almost six seconds (4:01.65).
Fitzpatrick led off in 58.5 followed by Uang in 1:00.6. Ferry handled the third leg in 58.7 and Bloom anchored the relay in 58.2 as the team shaved 1.35 seconds off of their previous season best, set at the St. Valentine's Invitational at BU three weeks ago. The time was just fast enough to get the relay into the NCAA Championships as the tenth and final team, .13 seconds ahead of Wisconsin La Crosse.
Coach Kristen Morwick is confident that there is more to come from the foursome.
"Knowing that we did that under a lot of stress and ran that by ourselves with no one near us, I know the 4x400 can run much faster," Morwick said.
The members of the relay team were not the only Jumbos trying to qualify for Nationals on Friday. Junior Sarah Crispin ran the mile and set a new personal record (5:03.36) with her third place finish, beating out Coast Guard sophomore JoEllen Aarons and junior Ellen Davis by .16 and .47 seconds respectively.
Crispin started the race towards the back of the pack, and got stuck behind other runners.
"I had difficulty moving around the other runners, but I did it gradually and was fortunate enough to have enough left to out-kick Ellen Davis," Crispin said.
The time was fast enough to qualify, but the All-American will be running the mile leg in the Distance Medley Relay, so Morwick has opted to keep her fresh for the relay instead and enter her in just one event.
"[Morwick] made a good decision because I haven't had much experience in the open mile yet, and having a fresh anchor will give our relay an advantage over other DMRs as a lot of their milers are doubling back [from the open run]," Crispin said.
"The purpose [of racing her in the mile] was for her to qualify," Morwick said. "If the relay wasn't going to make it, we had a chance to put her in the open mile, but the relay was our priority."
That said, Morwick recognizes Crispin's sacrifice in forgoing the individual event to put the relay team first.
"I have a lot of confidence in her and I'm really happy that she agreed to do that," Morwick said. "Anything can happen on that mile leg. If we're in the running and she's fresh, a lot of people won't be."
Senior tri-captain Becca Ades also made a push to qualify, but her 17:53.50 in the 5,000 meters, while one of her fastest times in the event and good enough for fourth place at Trinity, wasn't enough to get her in at Nationals. Ades has run the taxing event three times in the last four weeks in an attempt to make the national performance list.
"She's run some good 5ks considering she had to run a couple in a row," Morwick said. "Knowing that she's had to handle a lot, she did a really good job. She's had a great attitude about it so she's pretty geared up for the [3,000 meter steeplechase] outdoor."
In the 800 meters, sophomore Katy O'Brien went into the meet looking to improve upon her time of 2:14.61. She took first place by over a second and while she only hit 2:15.19 on Friday, her previous best of 2:14.61 was fast enough to get her the final seed in the event for Nationals. Despite just barely squeaking into the event's final bid, teammates are confident that O'Brien will be a force in the race.
"[O'Brien] is one of the toughest competitors I know," Crispin said. "I'm sure that she has whatever it will take for her to run well in Minnesota."
Sophomore Sarah Martin set a Tufts record in the weight throw with a throw of (46'02"), breaking the record of 45'07" set by then-senior Jess Colby last year.
Classmate Jenna Weir, who has battled a shoulder injury during the past month, made a return to the field on Friday. She took second in both the triple (35'10.75") and the long jump (17'02.75), and set a personal record in the latter.
"She's really stepped up to the competition," Morwick said. "Both [throwing coaches Ed Arcaro and Lisa Wallin] have done a good job. She's in a good place right now."
Freshman Paula Dormon took third in the shot put with a throw of (39'04") and the team of junior Kate Makai and freshmen Susan Allegretti, Evelyn Sharkey, and Aubrey Wasser finished fifth in the DMR (12:46.39). The Jumbos also ran a 4x400 consisting of pentathlete seniors Megan Sears and Daniela Fairchild, junior Maggie Clary, and freshman Kathleen Rutecki. The team took fifth in 4:10.05.