Women's Track & Field Returnees Look to Take Next Step as New Season Blossoms

MEDFORD – The Tufts University women's track & field team will look for breakthrough performances from a deep roster of returning talent as the 2018-19 season gets underway.

Rhemi Toth ran with the NCAA indoor DMR last March

The Jumbos have plenty of athletes who recorded the team's top marks last year returning. Now head coach Kristen Morwick and her staff will look for those Jumbos to take the next step into contending for conference and regional championships and qualifying nationally.

Tufts graduated indoor 5,000 meters national champion Brittany Bowman in the distance events and All-American Annalisa DeBari in the hurdles and sprints. The two of them alone helped Tufts tie for 11th at NCAA indoors last season, the team's best finish since Tufts took ninth at the 2011-12 NCAA indoor meet.

Three returning Jumbos got a taste of NCAA competition last winter as juniors Rhemi Toth and Julia Gake and sophomore Olivia Martin ran in the distance medley relay indoors and placed 10th.

"We return a solid crew of experienced athletes in all phases and add a very talented crew of first-years in sprints, hurdles, jumps and throws to add quality and depth to our team," Coach Morwick said. "It should be an exciting year."

The long sprints and middle distance events will be a strength. Gake and Martin were joined by senior Julia Noble and junior Lauren Diaz to finish as the 4x800-meter relay runner-up at the New England Division III outdoor meet. Toth and Martin were part of the New England D3 indoor runner-up 4x8 with junior Nicole Kerrigan and sophomore Emily Murray.

Returning juniors Gake, Raquel Whiting and Nehalem Kunkle-Read ran with the second-place 4x400 relay at NESCAC's last spring. Gake was the 600 meters runner-up at D3 New England's indoors, while Toth's 4:34.85 in the outdoor 1,500 was 31st nationally last spring. Add in junior Sarah Levine and the Jumbos have a deep group in this area.

The jumps group has good depth as well led by seniors Brita Dawson, Kylene DeSmith and Sydney Ladner. Dawson was All-Conference in the long jump for 2017 and will also be a sprints contributor. Ladner cleared 10'8" (3.25m) last spring in the pole vault, where she's joined by senior Sharon Kelmar to form a good duo. DeSmith is the team's top returnee in the triple. Both she and sophomore high jumper Scarlett Bliss scored at NESCAC's.

In the distances, Tufts will be led by members of the cross country team who finished 12th at the NCAA Championships in the fall. That group includes a return to the track by seniors Olivia Barnett, Caitlin Porrazzo and Natalie Bettez, who missed last season while studying abroad. Fellow seniors Kelsey Tierney and Jennifer Jackson will shore up the distance gang as well. Bettez won the all-divisions New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association cross country race in the fall.

The throws group returns senior Evelyn Drake, the NESCAC hammer throw champion. Sophomore Nkem Aduka will look to build off an impressive freshman campaign where she scored fourth at the conference meet in both the shot and discus. Junior Julia Kissel is a javelin throw specialist for the spring with a 130'7" (39.85m) school record in the event.

Olivia Schwern is another member of the sophomore class who will look to advance after a good freshman season. She had the team's top 60 and 200 times indoors. Kunkle-Read is the team's top hurdler.

The Jumbos will send a few distance runners to compete at the BU Sharon Colyer-Danville Season Opener on Saturday. The first of four Jumbo home meets on January 12 will be the official start for the full squad.