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

Women's Track and Field | Women's track earns national championship

The women's track and field distance medley relay team took home a national title with its performance in the NCAA Div. III Indoor Championships on March 14.

With the 14th national championship in the history of the Tufts program, along with points gained in the open mile event, the Tufts team captured sixth place overall at the championships.

The Jumbos ended up scoring 20 total points at the meet, just one short of making the meet's top four, which would have earned the program an All-American title. But with the focus on individual goals, the Jumbos were thrilled with their performance.

"If we had really gone after [a team win] by putting more people in events to get more points, we probably could have finished in the top four," coach Kristen Morwick said. "But we already accomplished our team goals by winning the Open New Englands, and now we were working on individual performances."

The DMR team consisted of freshman Stephanie McNamara leading off in the 1,200-meter leg, and seniors Kaleigh Fitzpatrick, Katy O'Brien and Cat Beck running the 400, 800 and 1,600 respectively. The team's finishing time of 11:46.79 not only won the race, but broke the Ohio Northern Sports Center's record of 11:46.90, which was set in 2002 by the Wisconsin-Oshkosh squad.

The Jumbos' biggest competition in the race came from the University of St. Thomas, but they handled the pressure well and held the lead for the entire race. St. Thomas ended up with a time of 11:48.10.

"We tried to stay relaxed, but I was terrified when Katy handed me the baton," Beck said. "[As I was running], I made sure not to think about what was going on behind me. We had a lot of confidence and faith in each other's races."

The DMR squad was no stranger to the big stage, as Fitzpatrick and Beck had been a part of the team that finished second at Nationals last year in a school-record 11:35.54. The Jumbos believe the experience helped put them over the edge this time around.

"Our experience definitely helped prepare us, especially coming in second place last year [in this event]," O'Brien said. "We went in with the goal of winning."

The only freshman on the relay team, McNamara, was able to benefit from the seniors' experience.

"It's nice for Steph to go with people who've been [to Nationals] a lot," Morwick said. "She's lucky to have the seniors to guide her and to have had two good Nationals experiences as a freshman."

"Hopefully in the next few years we'll be seeing her competing in individual events at Nationals," Beck added. "It will be exciting to see her develop."

Just about two hours before the DMR, Beck and O'Brien competed in the open mile. After preliminary finishes in third and fourth, respectively, the duo made its mark in the final heat. Beck earned All-American honors by coming in third place with a time of 4:59.72. O'Brien was right behind her in fifth place, finishing in 5:03.40.

Fitzpatrick competed in the 400-meter dash three events before the DMR, which gave her very little time for recovery. Although she didn't make it to finals, the senior scored a personal record by posting a time of 58.18 seconds.

Sophomore Logan Crane was the other individual performer at the meet, competing in the 55-meter dash. She was placed in the fastest preliminary heat and finished in fourth place with a time of 7.22 seconds - just one frustrating hundredth of a second off of the qualifying time to break finals in the event.

"It was her best trial time ever, but the dash was just super competitive," Morwick said. "She can't be unhappy with her season, though. She broke a very long-standing record and made it to Nationals - not too shabby."

The team overall was very pleased with its performance, and the seniors enjoyed a triumphant end to their indoor track careers.

"We were all really psyched," O'Brien said. "What a perfect way to cap off the season and my indoor career."

"It was so exciting," Beck added. "I don't see how it could have gone better, and it was awesome to be able to share that moment with the rest of the girls."

Now that the indoor season is over, the Jumbos must start looking ahead to the outdoor season, which starts this weekend with their invitational, the Snowflake Classic.

"[Outdoor] is such a short season that we really have to get right into it," Morwick said. "We're possibly even stronger for outdoor; we'll have a few more events that will benefit us. We're maybe hoping to win NESCACs this year, which we've never done before."