After five frustrating years of taking second place to Williams at the New England Div. III Championships, the women's track and field team made history on Saturday, taking first place for the first time in the 19-year history of the meet. The Jumbos edged out the Ephs 136-128.50 to earn the victory.
"It was a battle all day," coach Kristen Morwick said. "It was nerve-wracking going into the meet knowing we had a real shot. We just fought the whole day and worked for every point. The team really stepped it up."
It was a true team effort, and because the meet was so close, every point counted. With only four event wins, the Jumbos depended on their third- and fourth-place finishes to stack up points where they needed them.
"It was very tight," senior co-captain Cat Beck said. "You can never underestimate any opponent, especially Williams."
The Jumbos had to deal with several obstacles, including the disqualification of freshman Andrea Caruth in the 600-meter run. This ended up being about a 10-point swing for Williams, increasing the pressure on the Jumbos. Caruth shook it off, however, and she later contributed to the Tufts 4x400-meter relay team with senior co-captain Kaleigh Fitzpatrick, junior Aubrey Wasser and sophomore Logan Crane. The foursome finished in second place with a time of 4:02.14.
Fitzpatrick carried a box of Kleenex with her all day, having to compete in four events while fighting cold symptoms. Despite being under the weather, Fitzpatrick racked up 27 points for her team, putting together strong efforts in the 4x400 relay, the triple jump, the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash. All of her finishes were fourth place or better, including her second-place finish in the 400 with a time of 59.24 seconds.
"Kaleigh was just superhuman," Morwick said.
Crane also ran four events in the meet: the 55-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the 4x400 relay and the long jump. Crane had been threatening to best the Tufts school record for the 55-meter dash all season, and on Saturday she finally broke through. Her time of 7.18 seconds erased former record-holder Vera Stenhouse's (LA '91) time of 7.28 from the record books.
"I'm so excited," Crane said. "My body is so sore, but [that race] couldn't have been any better."
Crane also came close to tackling the school record in the 200-meter dash, finishing just 0.03 seconds shy of the current record held by Jess Trombly (LA '04).
Beck also had a great day, competing in both the mile and the 3,000 meters. In the mile, Beck took first place and broke her own indoor record with a time of 4:56.48, improving her NCAA provisional qualifying mark. Ninety minutes later, Beck came in second place in the 3,000 meters, finishing in 10:00.52, a mere second behind Amherst senior tri-captain Heather Wilson's first-place run.
"It was hard [running two long races], but I got a really good workout," Beck said. "It's nice to see improvement week after week."
Also in the mile, senior Katy O'Brien took third place with her time of 4:58.43, while freshman Stephanie McNamara finished fourth in 5:03.11. This duo also made up half of the 4x800-meter relay team, along with senior Anna Shih and freshman Amy Wilfert, which took second place with a time of 9:26.02.
In addition, McNamara and Wilfert competed in the 1,000-meter run, finishing in first and fifth with times of 2:58.86 and 3:00.43, respectively.
The Jumbos scored in every field event on Saturday. Senior Jenna Weir, who was seeded last in the high jump, ended up finishing in seventh place out of 17 and gained a much appreciated 1.5 points for the team. Weir also competed in the long jump, where she lept into third place with a jump of 5.17 meters, finishing behind Crane's winning jump of 5.33 meters.
Freshman Allison Fechter enjoyed a fifth-place finish in the pole vault, ending up at 3.05 meters. Classmate Kanku Kabongo gained six points for Tufts in the triple jump, coming in third place with a leap of 10.64 meters. Yet another first year, Sarah Nolet, helped the Jumbos with her second-place finish in the pentathlon, where she ended up with a score of 2,883 points.
When captains Beck and Fitzpatrick went up to receive the trophy at the end of the meet, the whole team was full of emotion.
"I was kind of in shock," Beck said. "Kaleigh and I were each holding a corner of the trophy, and we were just laughing so hard I was afraid we would drop it."
With several people in tears on the way home, the entire team was extremely excited to know that they had just made history.
"It was so great to come back home knowing we were the champions," Beck said. "It's an indescribable feeling."
"It was very emotional," Morwick added. "For those guys to finish their senior year like this is just awesome."