Runner-up at the NESCAC meet last spring, the Tufts University women's outdoor track & field team starts the 2019 championship season with the conference meet hosted by Middlebury College on Saturday.
Returning NESCAC hammer throw champion Evelyn Drake leads a Jumbo squad that had its best finish at the conference meet last year since earning runner-up in 2015. Head coach Kristen Morwick's squad last won the conference title in 2013.
Declarations for the meet were not yet official at the time of this release, but the Jumbos expect many of last year's point-scorers to be key contributors again.
Tufts piled up points in the throws last season and hopes to do the same this weekend. Drake, who won the hammer with a 143'9" (43.83m) launch last year, had the conference's second-best distance in this regular season of 155'6" (47.40m). Nkem Aduka was fourth in the shot put and discus throw last year as a freshman and will look to add major points there again this season. Junior Julia Kissel is one of the top seeds in the javelin with a 128'6" (39.17m) season-best.
Junior Rhemi Toth has been one of the top middle distance performers in the league this year and had the third-best 800 time (2:14.79) in NESCAC this spring. She was fifth in a loaded 1,500 at NESCAC's last year. Classmate Julia Gake will look to be a scorer in the 400.
Seniors Natalie Bettez, co-captain Jennifer Jackson, Caitlin Porrazzo and co-captain Kelsey Tierney, and freshman Danielle Page are the leaders of the Jumbo distance contingent. Tierney has NESCAC's second-best time in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (11:14.73) for 2019. Page ran the league's fifth-fastest 10K of 38:45.08 during the season.
Senior Kylene DeSmith, who scored in the triple jump last year and has a top-five mark in the 100 hurdles this season (14.98), could make a contribution in multiple events. Whereas they are a bit short-handed in the sprints, the Jumbos will have four entries in the 400-meter hurdles to potentially make up some poitns. Junior Nehalem Kunkle-Read, fourth in the 400h tlast year, leads the group along with sophomores Scarlet Bliss and Hannah Norowitz and freshman Luana Machado.
The jumps/vault personnel has good potential for important group scoring. Sophomore Jacqueline Kirk and freshman Afroditi Georgiadi in the high jump, senior Sydney Ladner in the pole vault and freshman Kathryn Ezeoha in the long and triple jumps all had top-eight marks in the conference during the year. Bliss scored in the high jump last season and has Tufts' best long jump outdoors this year (16'10 ¾" – 5.15m).
The relays have always been a strong point for the Jumbos at this meet. The 4x4 of Gake with freshmen Tara Lowensohn, Machado and Hannah Neilon's 3:59.76 was fourth in NESCAC during the season. Along with Machado in the 400h, the two other members of that talented freshman trio could likely show up in scoring spots elsewhere in the meet. The Jumbos will also have 4x1 and 4x8 relay entries likely to score.
Indoor national champion Williams College is a clear-cut favorite. The Ephs have won 17 of the last 18 conference titles, with only the Jumbos' win in 2013 interrupting. Bates, Bowdoin and Middlebury could join Tufts in competition for the other top team positions this weekend.