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

Women's Track and Field | Jumbos defend Gantcher with first-place showing at Tufts Invitational

Taking advantage of its home-field advantage, the women's track and field team raced to the top Saturday at the Tufts Invitational II, amassing 160 points total and netting a number of first-place finishes along the way.

The Jumbos finished the day with several personal records and qualifying times for the championship meets, including the NCAA Championships, to be held in mid-March. At the end of the day, UMass Lowell came in a distant second with 124 points, and Springfield rounded out the top three with 72.

"It was a nice win," coach Kristen Morwick said. "We were a lot more focused, and we're definitely improving."

The Jumbos competed in a wide array of events with the goal of attaining as many postseason qualifications as possible. Securing positions in championship meets in late February and early March is an important part of the team's strategy.

"It's good to get qualified so we have a lot of options," Morwick said.

"The more depth that we have, the better we can do at the big meets," senior co-captain Kaleigh Fitzpatrick added. "It's not just about the win; we need those second, third and fourth places, too."

Case in point, Fitzpatrick herself won the 600-meter run, an event she had never raced before, in 1:38.76. Being a sprinter, Fitzpatrick normally does not run this long of a distance and likely won't continue competing in this event, but it helped her prepare for the 400 meters at BU's Valentine Invitational this weekend.

Sophomore sprinter Logan Crane put forth another stellar performance, as she hustled to two wins Saturday in both the 55-meter and 200-meter dashes. Crane's 55-meter time of 7.32 seconds not only qualified her for the NCAA Championships but was a mere .04 seconds from the current school record held by Vera Stenhouse (LA '91).

Not to be outdone by the sprinters, the distance runners posted a great showing as well. The Jumbos took over the mile, as senior co-captain Cat Beck, senior Katy O'Brien and freshman Stephanie McNamara captured first, second and fourth places, respectively. Beck's time of 4:58.86 met the NCAA provisional mark, while McNamara's 5:09.84 effort was a remarkable 18-second improvement on her personal record.

Beck also won the 1,000-meter run, clocking in at 2:56.16, while freshman Amy Wilfert followed her in fourth place and posted a personal record with a time of 3:05.44.

O'Brien took another second-place finish in the 800-meter run, crossing the finish line in 2:19.96. To round out Tufts' running victories, the distance medley relay team enjoyed a first-place finish, while junior Veronica Jackson, despite being sick, took third place as the Tufts' sole representative in the 5,000 meters.

Jackson wasn't the only Jumbo recovering from health issues at the meet. Sophomore Andrea Ferri ran the 200-meter dash and the 4x200 meter relay in her first meet back from surgery.

"I couldn't wait to be back," Ferri said. "It was good for my first meet, but I know I'm going to improve."

In the field, the pole vault proved a strong event for the Jumbos. Freshman Allison Fechter took first place with junior Jennifer Johnson tying for second and freshman Dana Harada coming in fourth to combine for 22 points for Tufts.

Tufts dominated the weight throw, taking four of the top 10 spots. Notable efforts came at the hands of senior Sarah Martin and junior Paula Dorman, who claimed second and third place, tossing it 13.48 and 13.32 meters, respectively.

The Jumbo long jumpers also secured four of the top 10 finishes, as senior Jenna Weir finished third, Fitzpatrick fourth, Crane sixth and freshman Kanku Kabongo eighth.

"It's nice knowing how deep the [sand] pits are and how sharp the turns of the track are," Kabongo said. "Now I'm getting where I should be."

Kabongo and other freshmen have demonstrated their ability all season, and this meet was no exception.

"The freshmen have done really well," Morwick said. "It's a great experience for them to have to step in right away and make an impact."

Despite the success of the weekend, the goal over the next few weeks remains seeking additional championship qualifications, with a focus on the relay squads.

"I think we have a shot at doing very well in the championship season," Morwick said.