With only one more meet to go before the NCAA Championships, the women's track and field welcomed the stiff competition brought in by the 31 other schools competing in last weekend's Open New England Championships at Boston University. The Jumbos' 13 points earned them a respectable 18th-place finish, which put them in the middle of a pack of Div. I schools.
The girls continued a season of steady improvement at this meet by coming home with several more personal records and NCAA qualifiers. Like the other big meets at BU this season, the Jumbos were concentrating on bettering their individual times rather than team scores.
"We focused on going out there and running our best," senior co-captain Cat Beck said. "[This] meet is a great chance for us to compete when we're at our peak."
Beck was part of the most exciting event for Tufts at this meet, the distance medley relay (DMR). She took the mile leg, while freshman Stephanie McNamara ran the 1,200 meters, senior co-captain Kaleigh Fitzpatrick was on the 400 and senior Katy O'Brien took the 800. The relay team took first place out of 13, finishing in 11:43.47. Tufts currently holds the New England record in this event with a time of 11:39.08, set last year by the team of Beck, O'Brien, Fitzpatrick and Sarah Crispin (LA '07).
Winning the DMR was no simple task for the Jumbos. The relay team had to deal with very competitive schools who have also been preparing for Nationals. During the last leg of the relay - the mile - the Jumbos had a scare when Providence College almost took the lead.
"We weren't expecting Providence to catch up with us, but luckily Cat pulled away with it," McNamara said.
This performance gives the relay team something to look forward to at the NCAA Championships in two weeks.
"We're possibly going for a win at Nationals," said McNamara.
McNamara also competed in the mile earlier in the weekend, where she hit a personal record. McNamara broke five minutes, an exciting accomplishment itself, and her time of 4:58.67 earned her sixth place overall and three points for Tufts. Although it is not an automatic qualifying time for Nationals, her mark does make her a provisional qualifier.
Other notable performances include Fitzpatrick's ninth-place finish in the 400-meter dash with a time of 57.94 seconds. Freshman Andrea Caruth came in 18th place in the 500-meter dash, crossing the finish line with a personal best of 1:19.47. In the 4x400 meter relay, the team of O'Brien, Caruth, senior Joyce Uang and sophomore Andrea Ferri took 18th place, finishing in 4:05.66. Freshman Amy Wilfert competed in the 3,000 meters and finished in 11th place with a time of 10:24.54, winning her heat.
In field events, freshman Allison Fechter pole-vaulted 3.15 meters, ending up in 16th place, while senior Jenna Weir came in 17th place in the long jump, leaping 5.01 meters.
Unlike last weekend, when the team competed in as many events as possible, the Jumbos were able to narrow their focus to just one or two events each this time around.
"It's nice for us mentally," Beck said. "It's a long season, so it's good to get little breaks here and there."
However, the team will not be able to rest for long. The next two weekends bring the biggest meets of the season: the ECACs at Harvard next week, and then the NCAA Championships after that.
"All eyes are looking towards Nationals," Beck said.
The tough competition of this weekend prepared the Jumbos for these next few meets. McNamara used the high caliber of her opponents to her benefit.
"It's definitely a good way to adjust to the stiff competition [we'll be facing at Nationals]," she explained. "We did [well] this weekend, and hopefully we can say the same for next weekend."