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Men’s and women’s track and field dominate at two meets last weekend

The Tufts Daily

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Student athletes at the Tufts Branwen Smith-King Invitational are pictured on Jan. 30, 2022.Courtesy Hannah Neilon

By Arnav Sacheti

On Sunday, men’s track and field sent squads to compete at both the Boston University-hosted John Thomas Terrier Classic and the Tufts-hosted Branwen Smith-King Invitational. Two days prior, on Friday, the women competed on a separate day of the John Thomas Terrier Classic at BU.

For the men, the BU meet featured dominant performances by junior Alex Lemieux and sophomore Luke Botsford. Lemieux recorded a 21.66 in the 200-meter race, which was good for fifth place out of 108 runners. That race gives him not only the school record in the event but also a time that is ranked in the top 30 in Div. III all time. Botsford performed equally well, finishing at 21.92 in the 200-meter race and 49.16 in the 400. His 200-meter performance placed him 9th out of 108, while his 400-meter mark was 10th out of 76. Both marks are top 20 in Div. III this season. 

Despite his great performance, Botsford felt he had room to improve. This was Botsford’s first indoor track 400-meter race, and he was still getting used to the 200 track that requires more frequent turning than an outdoor 400 track. 

“My goal going in[to the race] was to get sub 49 seconds,” Botsford said. “My PR for outdoor track was a 48.1, so I just wanted to get myself anywhere near that. And I knew it was possible just because of the competition and this track is a banked curve, which makes you go a lot faster.”

The women’s side on Friday was also littered with national level times. First-year Aoife Hernon finished 30th out of 87 in the 200 with a time of 25.74, good for 15th in Div. III after being converted due to the banked track. The 4 x 400-meter squad also set a top 15 time in Div. III. First-year Annika Kral, senior Luana Machado, senior Hannah Neilon and first-year Emma Smith made up this 4×4 unit that recorded a time of 3:58.97. Smith ran the 400 in 59.34, which was good for 27th place out of 82, and was the 33rd best 400 time in Div. III this season. Two Jumbos came in the top 15 in the 500-meter race, with Machado placing 11th with a time of 1:17.04 and Neilon coming in at 1:18.05, which was good for 12th.

Since there were races at two different locations on Sunday, there was some communication through the form of a Slack group chat that went on between the runners at the BU and those that ran at home, which provided a major boost to the runners.

“Whenever anyone does anything impressive, usually there is some chat, and it is nice to see your name and someone else’s name,” Botsford said. “It’s been really awesome. Just because you get to connect with not only your teammates of your grade, but you get to talk to upperclassmen.”

There was a lot going on in the group chat, since the performances at not only the BU meet, but also at the home Branwen Smith-King Invitational, were impressive.

As a team, the men finished first out of 10 teams while the women finished second. On the men’s side, Tufts had three runners make it to the final of the 60-meter dash. These included junior Amos Trinidad, who finished second, first-year Naheim Washington who finished third and sophomore Daniel Williams who came in fourth.

Junior Carter Rosewell won the 400-meter dash, coming in at a time of 52.98, which is a personal record for him. The 600-meter race featured six Jumbos in the top seven, with sophomore Chris Tilton leading the pack with a time of 1:24.58. Both the mile and the 3000-meter also featured three Jumbos in the top seven, with junior Connor Giersch taking second place in the 5000-meter with a time of 16:02.32.

The 4 x 400-meter squad consisting of junior Andrii Campbell, first-year Ethan Forde, first-year Noah Turner, and junior Sawyer Wilson took first place with a total time of 3:29.56. In the field events, sophomore Harry Rienecker-Found was first in the high jump, and the triple jump featured three Jumbos on all spots on the podium. Senior Alex Zsikla led the way with a jump of 45’ 3.75’’, and first-years Washington and Anthony Bhangdia followed close behind with jumps of 41’ 1.5’’ and 40’ 9.5’’, respectively.

“I’m very happy with my performance. I think that it is still very early in the season, which means that it’s a good predictor for what’s the outcome,” Zsikla said.

When reflecting on the team’s overall performance, Zsikla was equally enthusiastic.

“I think it should be said that the two other people that were competing with me weren’t going at 100%, they were going at 80% of their top performance. We have a much higher ceiling than what is shown just on a stat sheet,” Zskila said.

On the women’s side, first-year Alexa Burst came third in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:05.19. Three Jumbos placed in the top six of the 1000-meter race, with first-year Carly Rinko coming in first with a time of 3:06.23, followed closely behind by sophomore Rose Kitz. 

Three women made it to the 60-meter hurdles finals, and sophomore Sarah Pillone won the race with a 9.33 time. The Tufts ‘A’ team beat out the Tufts ‘B’ team for a little friendly competition in the 4 x 800-meter relay to secure first place in that event. The ‘A’ team consisted of Rinko, Smith and first-years Ella Gillespie and Haley Nilsson. 

In the field events, the women took individual first place in the high jump, pole vault and triple jump. Junior Jaidyn Appel won the high jump with a jump of 5’ 7.25”, first-year Sarah Firth won the pole vault with a jump of 11’ 7.75” and junior Lia Rotti led four Jumbos in the top seven in the triple jump with a jump of 38’ 5.5”.

With these two successful meets, the focus is now to build on those performances.

“We are heading into championship season,” Zskila said. “We only have three more weeks until we have to get ready to go. We don’t have time to sit around anymore. We have to go out and put our 100 percent day in and day out because there’s only so many days left.”

The men’s and women’s teams will both continue this journey at the NEICAAA Championships this weekend at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Boston.

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