Rising Talent a Highlight as Women's Track & Field Season Takes Off This Week

With a roster that features two returning All-Americans and a lot of rising talent, the Tufts University women's track & field team is ready to get down to business as the 2017-18 season begins in earnest on Saturday.

Senior Annalisa DeBari was an All-American indoors last year 

Head coach Kristen Morwick's Jumbos had some distance runners compete at Boston University's Season Opener back on December 2. However, starting with Saturday's Tufts Invitational at home in the Gantcher Center, the Jumbos will be in action every week from now until March.

Leading the pack is senior co-captain Brittany Bowman, who has been an All-American in four consecutive seasons starting with cross country in 2016. On the track last year, she was eighth nationally in the 5,000 meters indoors and placed fifth in the NCAA Outdoor 10K. Coming off a career-best 11th at the NCAA Cross Country meet last November, which helped the Jumbos finish seventh as a team, Bowman is primed to cap her Tufts career with more distance success during the track seasons.

Senior co-captain Annalisa DeBari perhaps the best represents Tufts' emerging talent. She burst upon the national scene last winter by qualifying for the indoor 60-meter hurdles late in the season and then taking fifth at NCAA's for All-American recognition. Her 8.85 national qualifying mark is second-fastest time in Tufts history. A key contributor to Tufts' strong relays as well, DeBari will look to continue this progress in her senior season. Similarly, senior Julia Prusaczyk will look to put together a strong senior season in the hurdles, relays and long sprints.

The Jumbos have senior co-captain Jennifer Sherwill leading the throws group. She scored in two events at the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship last spring with a third in the discus and a fifth in the shot put. Sherwill ranks second behind All-American Kelly Allen all-time in the discus at Tufts. The Jumbos also have two of the top javelin throwers in the region with sophomores Julia Kissel and Erin Logee. Both scored in the event at the conference meet last year. Kissel's 130'2" (39.69m) stands as the school record.

A veteran group in the distances, including Bowman, features seniors Franchesca Burgos (co-captain), Margot Rashba, Eliza Lawless, Olivia Nicholson and Sara Stokesbury along with junior Kelsey Tierney. Rashba was ninth in the NESCAC 10K last spring while Tierney took 10th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at that meet. This group loses championship-caliber performers Natalie Bettez and Livvy Barnett to Tufts' study abroad program for the spring semester.

With a third in the long jump at the NESCAC meet last spring, junior co-captain Brita Dawson helped the Jumbos tie for third place in the conference. She also scored in the event at the New England Division III indoor meet and has versatility that ranges to the sprints, high jump and relays. Junior Sydney Ladner, who returns as part of a 4x200-meter relay that was the runner-up at the New England Division III indoor championship last year, is another skillful Jumbo. She scored fourth in the pole vault at the NESCAC meet and also competed in the sprints and long jump last year. A top 10 finisher at the New England Division III pentathlon, Kylene Smith is another multi-talented junior who should see a boost in production this season. She competed in the long jump, triple jump (seventh) and 100-meter hurdles at NESCAC's in 2017.

Sophomore Julia Gake has already established herself among Tufts' best ever in the long sprints. She was the New England Division III indoor runner-up in the 600 meters last winter and then scored among the best in New England for the 500 meters at the all-divisions meet the next week. Classmate Lauren Diaz brings the same potential in the middle distances, where her freshman season was highlighted by a fifth-place 1,000 meters finish indoors at the New England Division III meet. Sophomore Rhemi Toth, who ran the lead-off legs for the 4x8 which scored at the New England Division III and All-New England meets indoors last year, is another promising member of this group from the sophomore class.

Sophomore Alina Strileckis, who returns with DeBari and Ladner from the outdoor 4x200-meter relay, is one of the Jumbos' top hopes in the sprints and also competed in the javelin throw at the conference championships. Nehalem Kunkle-Read, a NESCAC scorer in the 400-meter hurdles as well as with the 4x400 relay, joins DeBari, DeSmith and Prusaczyk to give the team a strong group in the hurdles. Franny Kiles is another sophomore who developed well over the course of her freshman season and will look to make more of an impact in the sprints and jumps. The same could be said for classmate Raquel Whiting.

Other Jumbos who will look to make a bigger mark in 2017-18 include junior Sharon Kelmar (9th in NESCAC pole vault last season), junior Sarah Perkins (mid-distance), sophomore Rebecca Glass (jumps), sophomore Nicole Kerrigan (mid-distance) and sophomore Sarah Levine (long sprints).