Tufts dominates Lyons Invitational, aided by record-breaking performance from Firth

The Tufts Daily

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The Tufts National Qualifying Meet in Gantcher on March 7, 2020 is pictured.Ann Marie Burke / The Tufts Daily Archives

By Caroline Cromwell

The Tufts’ track and field team extended its winning season on Friday, Jan. 21, when the team placed first out of seven teams at the Lyons Invitational at Wheaton College. The Jumbo men racked up 165 points, crushing their opponents while the women scored 172.5 points, defeating their closest competition by nearly 80 points.

Multiple Jumbos on the men’s side had noteworthy performances that helped catapult Tufts beyond the second-place finisher, UMass Dartmouth. Sophomore Harry Rienecker-Found tied for the second-highest jump in Division III this season. Rienecker-Found improved upon his personal record that he had set the weekend before, by hitting 6 feet and 8 and three-fourths inches to win the event.

“I’m really happy to be up there in the rankings, and it’s a great feeling, but the season has only just started,” Rienecker-Found said. “Although it’s a good start, I want to be up there come the end of the indoor season, which will require clearing some higher bars, so I’m hoping I can push on and do better.”

In addition to Rienecker-Found, the entire men’s team posted solid outings at the meet. Junior Marcus Hardy won the 800-meter event with a time of 1:58.98, and junior Sawyer Wilson placed second. Junior Alex Lemieux won the 60-meter dash, coming close to matching his school record of 6.86 seconds with a time of 6.88. Sophomore Luke Botsford and junior Andrii Campbell had times of 22.70 seconds and 50.98 seconds, respectively, in the 200-meter and 400-meter races, placing them 28th and 35th in the country in those events. Junior Hunter Farrell and senior Alex Zsikla helped the Jumbos win the pole vault and the triple jump events.

Rienecker-Found noted that the team exceeded expectations.

“Oftentimes the first few meets of the season are just about getting out there and putting some times [and] marks down to build on, but I think not having an indoor season last year made the whole team hungry for PR’s and records, of which there were many,” Rienecker-Found said.

The Jumbos from the women’s team had an equally impressive meet, capitalized by first-year Sarah Firth’s breaking the university’s pole record by clearing a height of 12 feet and 6 and three-fourths inches in her second meet. Tufts finished the meet tallying a score of 172.5 points, well ahead of second-place Coast Guard Academy.

Firth had been previously disappointed in her jumps from the meet prior. 

“I decided that whether or not I broke the record this week, I didn’t want to walk away disappointed in myself,” Firth said. “I was proud of the quality of my jumps. I wasn’t just muscling them over. My run had really improved since the start of the year — I was extending my body in the right way, and focusing on driving upwards.”

Firth also emphasized the importance of her coaches in her success. She attributed her improvement this season to assistant pole vault coach Ingrid Gustafson, assistant jumps and multi coach Stephen Fleagle and head coach Kristen Morwick, as well as the rest of the coaching staff.

Other members of the team posted impressive finishes at the meet as well. Junior co-captain Jaidyn Appel helped the Jumbos to victory in the high jump, and first-year Carly Rinko won the 800-meter race with a time of 2:23.44, placing her 15th nationally. Tufts won both the 4×400-meter and 4×200-meter relays with times of 4:09.18 and 1:48.54, respectively. Junior Lia Rotti won the long jump for the Jumbos. Other notable Jumbos include senior co-captain Hannah Neilon, who ran a 1:01.28 in the 400-meter, sophomore Maelynn Ugokwe, who won the triple jump and sophomore Sarah Pillone, who hit a 9.43 qualifying time in the 60-meter hurdles.

“We have an extremely talented group this season, so the sky’s the limit for this team,” Rienecker-Found said.

Next weekend, the Jumbos take on the Branwen Smith-King Invitational at home and the John Thomas Terrier Classic at Boston University, where they hope to continue their strong start.

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