The women's track and field team saw tremendous success last winter, turning out All-American performances in the distance medley relay (DMR) and the 5,000-meter run and shattering school records in the process.
And as the season kicks into gear tomorrow, the team has no reason to believe it can't do it again.
Despite the losses of tri-captain Sarah Crispin - who along with then-juniors Cat Beck, Katy O'Brien and Kaleigh Fitzpatrick, guided the DMR team to a second-place showing behind Wisconsin-Platteville - and Jess Mactas, the team is in good shape heading into this season.
After a solid cross country campaign this fall, the distance group looks primed for success. Though Tufts failed to qualify for Nationals as a team, it sent individuals O'Brien, co-captain Beck and freshman Stephanie McNamara to Nationals, and all three nailed down All-American honors. The team also saw success from senior veteran Anna Shih and promising Tufts debuts from junior Amy Hopkins, sophomore Lisa Picascia and freshmen Christy Loftus, Amy Wilfert, Jen Yih and Isabel Hirsch.
"A lot of them were able to run in the big meets, so they gained a lot of experience just from that," junior Jackie Ferry said. "I think they'll be able to bring that experience into track ... and [it] will help them and just prepare them for what's going to come."
Beck also shined individually at Nationals last year, securing fifth place in the 5,000-meter run as Tufts' lone competitor in an open race. Back in top shape after running the majority of the indoor season with an injury last year, O'Brien will join her in heading the distance effort.
The Jumbo sprinters are also looking strong. Co-captain Fitzpatrick anchored the group last year, turning in a series of strong performances that she will hope to repeat in her senior season. Sophomore Logan Crane was also key for the Jumbos in short sprints, although battles with an injury hampered her performance. Ferry has been consistently solid throughout her collegiate campaign.
The sprinting group will be supported by a large freshman class, including Andrea Caruth, Lauren Perini, Kanku Kabongo, Sarah Nolet, Laura Dinn and Rosanna Xia.
"The freshman class is strong this year," coach Kristen Morwick said. "They have far more numbers, and I think they're going to make a big impact immediately."
The team will also get a boost with the addition of assistant coach Toni-Marie Henry, who joins the team from UMass Lowell where she posted All-American marks in sprints, jumps and relays.
"It's always good to have another person around," Beck said. "It's great to have that extra support - it can really make a huge difference. Toni seems very knowledgeable and very personable, so I think she'll really add a lot to the program."
The Jumbos will be looking to bolster their relays, which have been one of the team's strengths in years past. Although there will be voids to fill in the absence of Crispin and Mactas, the relay squads should have no problem staying competitive.
"All three relays will be really good this year," Morwick said. "The 4-by-2 was really good last year, and the 4-by-4 hit the NCAA provisional time and same with the DMR. Katy was injured for most of the indoor season and wasn't at full strength. Between our new freshmen, Anna Shih and Jackie Ferry, that DMR can be just as good this year."
But it may take a few meets for the Jumbos to completely nail down the lineup, and Morwick will start that process this weekend.
"We have a number of people we're going to try out this weekend, but I think it will just be a process like it was last year, trying different people in different legs and seeing who splits the fastest," Morwick said. "I think it will be more trial-and-error for that."
The Jumbos will head to Northeastern tomorrow for the Husky Carnival, which will give them their first look at the competition and provide a benchmark for the progress the team has made through its preseason training.
"It's a good meet because there's good competition, and you can sort of just see where you're at, and if you need to make any changes, you have time to do that," Ferry said. "It's not crucial that you run well because you have enough time to fix whatever mistakes you've made."
"Right now, for the distance kids, this upcoming meet is low-key," Beck said. "It's really just if you're interested and feel like you need a race. Everyone is positioned to compete really well coming off the [cross country] season ... It's a good opportunity to see where you're at before winter break; it helps you get motivated and get in that track mindset."