Following a five-week break from formal competition, the women's track and field team returned in 2008 with a slimmed roster and managed a 13th-place finish at the Dartmouth Relays on Sunday.
With 26 teams in attendance at Tufts' first scoring event of the winter season, the Jumbos managed a middle-of-the-pack showing, scoring 15 points at the meet with many of its members not yet back from winter break. Northeastern took first with 88.50 points, followed by Dartmouth in a distant second with 49.25.
"A lot of people don't come back [from winter break] for this meet," junior sprinter Jackie Ferry said. "You're not required to compete at Dartmouth, so we were missing a good number of our teammates. It's pretty much for those people that want to come back or are local and it's not difficult for them to travel up there."
"In terms of team placing, that's not at all something we were considering going into that meet," added senior co-captain Cat Beck, who won the 3,000 meters for the only Jumbo win. "I think we had some good performances, and I think it's good to get everyone back and getting everyone on the same page again with the season."
The Relays expanded from 11 to 26 teams this year, and additions to the 2008 event included tough Northeastern and Williams teams. Despite the absence of several key runners, the Jumbos witnessed a number of encouraging highlights peppered throughout different events.
Beck's win in the 3,000-meter run was a dominating one. Her time of 9:56.91 was 16 seconds faster than the second-place finisher. Another solid finish came from senior co-captain Kaleigh Fitzpatrick, who rushed to fifth place in the 400-meter dash in 59.53 seconds.
"There were a few good performances," Ferry said. "Cat Beck had an amazing race. She came off a great cross country season, and I think she'll be ready to go this track season as well. Kaleigh Fitzpatrick ran really well too in the 400, and she went sub-60 [seconds], which is awesome for opening the season."
Other notable efforts included sophomore Logan Crane's 7.98-second hustle in the 60-meter dash and freshman Kanku Kabongo's leap of 10.23 in the triple jump, both good for sixth overall. Tufts' relay squads also managed top-10 finishes, with the 4x200 team coming in sixth, and the distance medley squad captured eighth place.
"I think the focus in this meet was really getting people qualified [for postseason meets] and starting to get our new freshmen acquainted with college competition, and I think everyone did a great job with that," Beck said. "We'll go into more of our normal season schedule from here, and hopefully we'll start bringing in more people and getting more people healthy. I'm really excited to see where this season goes."
While it's difficult to derive any crucial implications from such an early meet, the Jumbos' efforts in Dartmouth this weekend did offer some lessons as the team looks ahead to the bulk of the season.
"If you run well now, it just shows great promise for the future," Ferry said. "Some people wanted to perform better, but you have time to fix it at this point since it's so early. You can still make changes in your training or look at different events that you may not have wanted to focus on originally."
The Dartmouth Relays also gave the team another chance to ease the transition from the fall cross country season to the winter's indoor track.
"I think right now one of the main goals is to get people healthy and get people fired up ... It's a long season between indoor and outdoor, so you definitely have to pace yourself," Beck said. "But I think we have a lot of potential that is yet to be seen out there, and it should be great when all the pieces fall together."
The Jumbos now look ahead to hosting the Tufts Invitational this weekend at the Gantcher Center, this time with a more complete lineup. However, the squad also has its sights set on another key upcoming meet, the Terrier Invitational at Boston University on Jan. 26.
"Basically we're looking at [the Tufts Invitational] as more of a training meet, so we're going to use it to get some quality work in," Ferry said. "People might be racing more than one race or longer than they're used to going. We're going train through this one and look to BU the next weekend as a big one to try to get some good times down."
"This is the more low-key of our invites at Tufts, and we're definitely bringing in another couple of people who haven't competed yet, so extending the roster is always a good thing," Beck said. "Other than that, we need to look toward getting as many people qualified in as many events as possible so that when we get to [Div. III Regionals], we have a lot of options."