The Tufts cross country program was victorious at the 55th annual Codfish Bowl, held Sept. 23 at Franklin Park in Boston. Both the men’s and women’s teams boasted strong performances to win their respective races and junior team captain Ivan Appleton received the NESCAC Performer of the Week award, finishing second overall in the men’s eight-kilometer race to lead Tufts to a commanding win.
The women’s team began the day with a five-kilometer race, shorter than their typical six-kilometer distance. The shorter race saw strong performances from Tufts, with sophomore Elizabeth Donahue leading the squad with a time of 19:08.9 to finish fourth overall.
Senior captain Rose Kitz was pleased with the win and attributed the success of the women’s team to a race inherently focused on teamwork.
“It was a good chance to practice running in packs … and I think that went pretty well,” Kitz said. “We moved up throughout the race.”
Kitz describes the purpose of these packs, or groups of runners at similar paces, as a strategy focused on “displacing people by running all together and taking up spots close to each other.” The final result, with all five scoring runners in the top 15, serves as a good testament to its efficacy.
In addition to fine-tuning team strategy, the race gave the Jumbos a chance to compete on a course where they will return later in the season. Franklin Park also serves as the site of the NEICAAA Championships, where some runners will compete on Oct. 7, as well as the NCAA Division III regional championship on Nov. 11.
While many team goals focused on preparing for future competitions, Tufts’ cross country teams were also excited for a chance to compete locally, especially with the support of the Jumbo community.
“It’s always … fun to run in our Boston local meets,” Kitz said. “Our track and field teammates [and] some of our alums came to support us, which is really awesome.”
For the men’s program, Saturday’s performance was also all about teamwork. The Jumbos had all five scoring runners within the top eight, with their top seven all within the first 11 places for a commanding team performance in the eight-kilometer race. Ivan Appleton’s standout performance was the anchor of this effort, with a time of 25:16.4.
On the men’s side, the win continues a streak from last week where the Jumbos swept the Bates Invitational. This week saw Tufts enter a larger field of 20 teams, facing both varsity athletes and club-level athletes. Expecting less heated competition, even considering the 11 varsity teams that were present, the Jumbos approached the race as an opportunity to work on team strategy. Coaches directed the runners to start more conservatively and focus on the last mile of the eight-kilometer race. The team rose to the occasion.
“We were told to go out conservative … None of us expected to come out with good times,” Appleton said. “[But] this has to be one of the meets where people really found their [personal records], or at least came close to their PRs.”
Junior Alex Friedman agreed about the team’s performance exceeding their own expectations.
“We just used it to practice running as a group, and kind of just see what would happen,” Friedman said. “We all ran a lot faster than I think we were expecting.”
He added that in addition to the scores achieved by runners, summing to 26 points, the overall strength of the individual times also reflects the team’s depth.
“Our 15th runner was still under 27 [minutes]. Usually that’s our, probably, eighth or ninth runner,” Friedman said. “For this early in the season, that’s really huge.”
Despite receiving NESCAC-wide honors, Appleton isn’t content to simply reflect on the success he found in the Codfish Bowl, and is looking to the future.
“I think everyone is pretty focused on [Pre-Nationals], as am I,” Appleton said. “These out of conference meets are really, really important for our nationals push.”
The cross country program hopes to carry the momentum from their dual victories into their next competitions on Oct. 7, with some Jumbos competing at the Pre-Nationals Invitational hosted by Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, and others returning to Franklin Park for the NEICAAA meet.