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

Tufts rebounds at Open New Englands

Tufts distance runners have posted fast times throughout the winter.

This past weekend the Jumbos bounced back from their disappointing results in the New England Div. III Championships two weekends ago with impressive performances at the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Assocation Championships, colloquially known as Open New Englands. The competition, hosted by Boston University from Feb. 27-28, included schools from NCAA Div. I, II and III.

"It was definitely better than the weekend past,” senior co-captian Marshall Pagano said.

Going into the meet, the team’s approach was significantly different from its mindset going into the New England Div. III Championships. While the New England Div. IIIs was about a high team finish, Open New Englands focused more on improving individual times as opposed to individual or team placing.

According to Pagano, the meet was a perfect opportunity for individuals to “focus on what [they] want to accomplish” and “really try to execute [their] race strategy or technique.”

Despite minimal emphasis on the team standings, the meet was important because it allowed the Jumbos to compete against the top opposition in the area and run fast times.

On the first day, junior Veer Bhalla provided the highlight for Tufts, earning a seventh-place finish in the 800 preliminaries with a time of 1:52.54. Bhalla’s time was adjusted by 1.5 seconds due to the banked track at Boston University’s facilities.

In the distance medley relay, first-years Sam Little and Chris Gregory joined seniors Sam Garfield and Pagano for a 14th-place finish with a time of 10:20.33.

The second day of the competition contained significantly more action for the Jumbos. Bhalla again recorded a notable result, this time in the 800 final. His 1:54.36 time landed him in sixth for the event.

Providing perhaps the most impressive and exciting results for Tufts were the 4x400-­meter and 4x800­-meter relay teams. Not only did the 4x400 team place in fourth out of 25, but it also recorded a school record of 3:15.34, although it was ultimately altered to 3:18.47 due to the banked track, placing the team a little over three seconds slower than the school record of 3:15.35. The team consisted of first-­year Andrew DeMaiti and juniors Francis Goins, Alex Kasemir and Mitchell Black.

After winning the 1,000 ­at the New England Div. IIIs and performing well at BU, Black believes that he has been progressing well and reaching the goals he had hoped to have achieved at this point in the season.

Black said he is particularly excited about his relay team’s performance, and he is confident that its 4x400 time will be enough to qualify for Nationals. Meanwhile, the 4x800-meter relay team featured three first-­years: Tom DePalma, Peter McCawley and Ty Enos. The trio was joined by junior Alex Apostolides and notched the team's best time of the year with a 7:46.69 to finish in 11th place.

Considering the heavy impact of first-­years at the meet, especially on the relay teams, Tufts has been rewarded for the trust it has shown in its relatively inexperienced athletes.

"As a program we try not to rely on freshmen to score points at big meets," Black said. "But these guys have really stepped up and put themselves out there.”

The team is now looking forward to the Last Chance Meet, held at the Gantcher Center, with a great deal of excitement. Most of that excitement will revolve around the surge for qualifying times for Nationals that usually occurs at this point in the season. Among others on the team, Bhalla is seeking a national qualifying time in the 800. Junior Michael Curley and sophomore Tim Nichols are also expected to be eyeing national qualifying times in the 5,000­-meter run.

The meet begins at 4 p.m., and the afternoon will be filled with Jumbos making their final pushes for Nationals.