Women's Cross Country Hopes to Make Run at Title as NESCAC Championship Hosts

MEDFORD – Tufts women's cross country team will host and compete at the 2018 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship on Saturday at Franklin Park in Boston starting at 10 am. The Jumbos enter the race ranked seventh in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division III national poll.

"Our goal for NESCAC's is to be in the top two teams and take a run at the title," Tufts head coach Kristen Morwick said. I would say Middlebury (ranked fifth) is the favorite with Tufts, Williams and Bates looking to challenge them. Natalie Bettez, our top runner, is the top returning finisher from last year and has a great shot at the individual title."

A season ago, Tufts finished third out of the 11 teams in the NESCAC Championship. In 2017, Bettez finished sixth overall clocking a 22:11.5 and Olivia Barnett placed 13th with a 22:39.8 time in the six-kilometer event. Bettez and Barnett earned All-NESCAC honors as both of them finished in the top 14 overall. Kelsey Tierney scored for Tufts with a 23:30.6. Johanna Ross (23:33.5) also returns from Tufts' top seven.

Lydia Heely, Jennifer Jackson, Nicole Kerrigan, Sara Mitchell, Caitlin Porrazzo, and Alexandra Wolf also ran for the Jumbos last year.

Tufts will lean on their six seniors in their final NESCAC Championship on Saturday.

"The seniors this year have been awesome so far," Morwick said. "Bettez is having an amazing season. Barnett and Tierney are coming back from injuries and starting to get back to form. Both should make huge contributions in the post-season. Julia Noble, Porrazzo, and Jackson are having the best cross country seasons of their Tufts careers and have been an inspiration to a lot of our younger athletes who have seen how much their hard work over fouryears has paid off."

Tufts has competed in five events this season and have finished in the top half of all five races.  Bettez started off with a victory at the Pineland XC Shootout in Gloucester, Maine. The tri-captain followed up that performance by winning the Purple Valley Classic. The senior's first-place finish at the All-Division New England Championship made her the second Jumbo to ever win the event and the first since 1975. In the Connecticut College Invitational, she placed third overall.

Heely started the year off strong finishing third overall at the Pineland XC Shootout. The junior followed that performance up at the Maine State Invitational where she was the Jumbos' top finisher at eighth overall. She finished 11th and second on the team at the Connecticut College Invitational. Anna Slager has put together a nice freshman campaign as she placed sixth at the Pineland XC Shootout and has finished among the top five Jumbos three times. Noble, Wolf, Barnett, Jackson, and Parrazzo have also placed in the top five Jumbos.

The team will run at Franklin Park for the second time this year following the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association race on October 7.

"Many of our kids have raced at Franklin Park over the last few years at Tufts and a bunch raced there in high school, so it's a course we are very familiar with and like racing," Coach Morwick said. "I think racing there once this year already helps as there are no mysteries and they know what to do and what not to do this time around."

All 11 NESCAC teams will compete on Saturday. Tufts is hosting for the first time since 2002. The Jumbos will be challenging for their second conference title and first since 1978.

> NESCAC Cross Country Championships Center


Written by Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello