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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

Harrison's stellar season continues in leading Jumbos at Open New Englands

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Tufts women's track and field competes at Tufts Stampede on Jan. 30.

Over the weekend, a few athletes on the women's track and field team traveled to Boston University (BU) for the annual NEICAAA New England Championships, otherwise known as Open New Englands, where Tufts finished 19th overall out of 32 teams. The meet features competition at the Div. I, II and III levels from all over New England, as athletes compete to run, throw and jump to their greatest potentials.

Current U.S. No. 3 in the 60-meter dash, senior quad-captain Alexis Harrison, had a fine day on the track. Harrison blazed through the prelims in the 60 meter in 7.74 to nab a semifinal spot, where she then won her heat in 7.71 seconds. Later in the day, in the final, she smoked a 7.69 to take second by the narrowest of margins (0.01 seconds) to beat the University of New Hampshire's senior Lauren Perrodin.

This season, Harrison has risen to an entirely different level. To put this into perspective, she ran her three 60-meter races on Saturday -- the prelims, the semis and the finals -- in times faster than her previous school record of 7.78 seconds from two years ago. She currently sits third on the national qualifying list and she will absolutely be in contention for an All-American honor, if not a national title, this season. Showing her versatility, she later returned and placed 20th in the long jump, bounding out to 16 ft., 10 in.

"I’m very happy with how the season is going so far," Harrison said. "If you told me freshman year that I was going to eventually run 7.63 in the 60-meter, I think I would’ve been a bit skeptical. Four years of hard work has been paying off, and I’m surprising myself every weekend."

Classmate and fellow quad-captain Marilyn Allen was also in action. Allen made it through the prelims of the 60-meter hurdles, but bowed out of the semifinals with a 9.09 second time. Sophomore Julia Prusaczyk was the only other sprinter in action on the weekend, taking 21st in the 500-meter in a time of 1:20.17.

A few of the distance women were in action, looking to take advantage of BU's sharp banked track to run fast times. In the 1000-meter, sophomore Sara Stokesbury ran well, setting a personal best with a 3:04.42, 21st place finish. Junior Kelly Fahey and sophomore Olivia Nicholson ran fast in the 5000-meter, as Fahey placed eighth in 17:56.79 while Nicholson ran a four-second personal best of 18:04.17 for 13th overall. Sophomores Eliza Lawless and Margot Rashba competed in the 3000-meter, working together the entire race. Lawless was 21st in 10:22.66 while Rashba was a few seconds behind her in 23rd in 10:25.56.

However, the race of the day belonged to senior quad-captain Sydney Smith in the mile. Although she has run a sub-5 minute mile equivalent in the 1500 before, Smith was able to break five minutes for the first time, running 4:57.89 for sixth overall.

"My goal was just run an aggressive race and stay towards the front of the pack to cover any moves made in the race," Smith said. "I haven't been as sharp racing as I would have [liked] this season, so this was a great opportunity for me to find that extra competitive edge again. It was the first race all season where I think I really just raced rather than over-strategizing, and it felt great to get back to that level of focus."

Needless to say, Smith was very happy breaking five minutes for the first time, but believes this performance can help set her up for an even stronger outdoor season.

"It's definitely been a major goal of mine since I started racing the mile [to break five minutes] -- but like every track runner, once you PR you always want to go faster," she said. "While it's huge to finally check off the sub-5 mile, I'm focusing in now on hitting sub 4:55 to set myself up for [a] sub 4:30 1500 in the outdoor season."

Sophomore Amylee Anyoha was the only Jumbo field athlete in competition, as her huge personal best from Div. III New Englands in the weight throw catapulted her to qualify for the event. Anyoha continued the momentum, throwing the weight 48 ft. 6.25 in. for her second-longest throw ever. Her past two competitions will set her up nicely for the outdoor season, where she will hope to be a big contributor to the team at the NESCAC Championships.

As most of the team is on a short break or getting geared up for the outdoor season, Harrison and Smith offered a few notes about this year's squad.

"The team has a lot of potential and people who have the ability to make a big impact," Harrison said. "In past years, I could tell who was going to have their breakthrough performance and just about when it would happen, whereas this year that big moment can come from anyone at anytime."

"The team this year I think has more talent in the field events than I've seen since freshmen year, which is something our NESCAC rivals don't have, so that bodes well for outdoor," Smith said. "If we can pair that talent with our indoor success in the sprint events and tap into the seventh-in-the-nation cross country finish from the fall, I think we could be set up for some big upsets in outdoor."

A number of Jumbos, such as Harrison and Smith, will remain in competition for a few weeks. Harrison, who will be competing at the national championships, will take a week of competition off, but athletes like Smith, who are close to qualifying for the national championships in their respective event, will take to the Gantcher Center on Friday evening for Tufts' Last Chance Meet.

"I'll be running at Last Chance, although the coaches and I haven't yet decided whether I'll race the mile or 800," Smith said. "Sitting at 22nd in the mile [the top 17 athletes nationwide will travel to nationals] makes it a tough decision because that puts the nationals bid out of my hands and forces us to gamble on people not declaring and on no one running a faster time this weekend. It's a balance of qualifying but also not being fatigued heading into nationals weekend, which we may risk if I run the mile for a third week in a row."

The action kicks off this Friday as some Jumbos will head to the ECAC Championships (site TBA) at noon while a number stay home at Gantcher for the Last Chance Meet starting at 5 p.m.

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