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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Page, Wagude lead Tufts cross country to impressive showing at NESCAC Championship

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The women’s cross country team is pictured at the NESCAC Championship.

Tufts cross country spooked its competitors at the NESCAC Championship at Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn., with the women's team finishing second and the men's team finishing fourth on Halloween weekend. The women, who competed in a 6K race, maintained their position from their last NESCAC Championship in 2019, while the men, who ran an 8K race, massively improved from their 2019 eighth-place finish.

The Jumbos were headlined by senior co-captain Danielle Page, who dominated the women’s race, finishing first overall with a time of 22:29.40, which was 30 seconds faster than any other competitor in the race. Two other Jumbos, senior Anna Slager and junior Meghan Davis, finished in the top five, with times of 23:18.50 and 23:30.60, respectively.

Sophomore Walter Wagude led the men, finishing fifth overall with a time of 25:17.60, representing a personal best in the race. Seniors Sam Gatti and Collin O’Sullivan followed close behind, both finishing in the top 25, with times of 25:51.40 and 26:13.30, respectively.

“I felt like everything was finally coming together — for both me and the team," Wagude said. "I was really happy, and I just feel like working together as a team paid off."

Page and Wagude both made Jumbo history with their races. Page is only the third Jumbo woman to win a NESCAC Championship andWagude had the best performance for a Jumbo male at the NESCAC Championship since 2016. Both Page and Wagude, along with Slager and Davis, made the NESCAC All-Conference First Team, which consists of the seven fastest male and female runners in the NESCAC region. Page also received the NESCAC Most Outstanding Performer award for the 2021 season, becoming the first Jumbo to receive this honor since 2006.

This was one of the tougher courses for the men to run as they needed to cross a large hill twice in order to finish the 8K race. This was coupled with unfavorable muddy course conditions from rain the night before. However, the Jumbos are not ones to back down and proved this with their finishes.

“I feel like everyone was ready to go out there and have fun," Wagude said. "I didn't hear anyone complaining about the conditions or being like, 'I don't think I'm going to do my best.' We have no control over the conditions and every other team is going to go through the same conditions — but, we are more prepared and are ready to have fun whatever they are."

The team camaraderie that the Jumbos have built throughout this season particularly  shined at this meet — not only for the men, but for the women as well. This race proved to be a cumulation of all the hard work the runners have put in this year.

“It was a really hard course out there," Page said. "It's probably the hardest course I've ever run on since I was 12 years old. It was a really muddy and chilly day and the team was just really gritty about it. We had a lot of people finish really well — three in the top five, and we were only 10 points behind the winning team, which is the closest that we've been to them in a really long time. We like races where we can get in there and get a little messy."

At the race, many spectators wore pink for breast cancer awareness while cheering on the Jumbos. Being able to run for a bigger cause made the race more meaningful, and contributed in part to the grit that the Jumbos showed.

“Breast cancer has always been a big cause on our team," Page said. "We decided that in support of breast cancer awareness, we would all wear our pink shirts. It's always fun to be able to run for something bigger than yourself. We all have other reasons why we run and it's nice when the entire team can come together for that."

The Jumbos’ focus is now set on the NCAA Regional Championship at Franklin Park in Boston, Mass. this upcoming weekend. Their competitive juices are flowing in an attempt to beat neighboring rival MIT, according to Page.