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

Tufts runners compete at NCAA Div. III nationals

Sophomore Kelly Fahey, pictured here second from left in a home meet earlier in the season, anchored the women's DMR at nationals last weekend.

Last weekend, 10 athletes from the men's and women's track and field teams traveled to the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C. for the NCAA Div. III National Championships. For the men's team, juniors Mitchell Black and Veer Bhalla qualified individually while the 4x400-meter team of first-year Andrew DiMaiti, juniors Alex Kasemir and Francis Goins and Black also qualified. For the women's team,  junior Marilyn Allen and sophomore Kelly Fahey qualified individually by ranking in the top 17 in the nation in their respective events, and the distance medley relay team of junior Sydney Smith, sophomore Rita Donohoe, senior Lauren Gormer and Fahey also qualified and competed among the nation's best for All-American honors.

The big winner of the weekend was Black. Black, who became the sixth Div. III athlete ever to break 1:50 in the 800-meter run indoors earlier this season, won his first national title in the 800 in impressive fashion, winning the title by over a second in 1:51.94. He beat a talented field which included fifth-year senior Andrew Carey of Johns Hopkins, who defeated Black for the national 800 title last spring.Black came back later in the day and unofficially split 48.3 in the 4x400-meter relay, helping Tufts take eighth overall in the event in 3:18.80, giving the squad All-American honors. Black is now a seven-time All-American, and he will be looking to add more to his resume both during the outdoor season and next year.

"It wasn't easy to tell when they were racing whether they could get top eight or not," sophomore Nick Usoff, who served as an alternate leg on the 4x400-meter team, said. "It was the same thing last year where Tufts' heat was just as fast as the actual 'fast' heat so as long as they stayed close to the leaders we knew they would be fine."

Usoff definitely believes that Black and the 4x400-meter relay team's success were partially brought about because of the atmosphere at the meet.

"The meet atmosphere was awesome," Usoff said. "Everyone off the track was cheering loudly for every single race, which created a lot of energy."

Bhalla, a returning All-American who placed eighth last year at indoor nationals, also competed in the 800 after qualifying for nationals at Tufts' Last Chance Meet. Unfortunately, his preliminary heat went out very slowly, and no one from his heat qualified for the final on time. Nonetheless, he still ran an impressive 1:55.61 for 11th overall.

"My race went out pretty slow, so I knew it was going to come down to a kicker's race," Bhalla said. "I'm not super confident in my kick compared to some of those guys, so I knew I was going to be in a little bit of trouble. My best races come when they go out hard, and I feel like I would have had a better shot if that were the case."

On the women's side, the distance medley team took ninth overall in a very talented field, running a solid 12:09.62 overall time but just missing All-American honors.The race was won by St. Thomas of Minnesota, who ran 11:45.26 to take the national title over second-place MIT, who ran 11:47.43.

Allen, who has had a phenomenal season in both the 60-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash, placed ninth in the preliminary rounds of the 60-meter hurdles and just missed qualifying for the final by 0.01 seconds, running 8.92 seconds and winning her heat.

Fahey also made her first of what could be many appearances at the national championships as an individual. Fahey, who placed 31st overall at the NCAA Div. III Cross Country Championships in the fall, took 17th in the 3000-meter run, finishing in 10:33.31.

Following nationals, these athletes joined the rest of their teammates down in Myrtle Beach, S.C. for spring break, where many of the non-nationals athletes opened their spring seasons.The Jumbos officially open their outdoor season and their quest for success at NESCACs next month when they host the annual Snowflake Classic, held this Saturday at the Ellis Oval.Both the men and women will be looking to qualify many athletes early on for the NESCAC Championships, which will be held next month at Williams College.