The Cardinals shined at the Tufts Cupid Invite as the men earned seven top-eight performances and the women secured 12 top-eight finishes, including two first-place efforts

The Cardinals headed to Tufts on Saturday, Feb. 7, to face some of the toughest competition of their indoor season thus far. But amidst the mix of competitive NESCAC and other regional universities, Wesleyan’s women finished fourth out of 17 while the men tied for 11th out of 20.

“The competition at Tufts was HOT!” wrote LaDarius Drew ’15 in an email to The Argus. “Bridgewater, Worcester State, MIT… the list goes on. Pure heat was being served every event. It was a great day to run great times.”

Despite fiery competition, the Cardinals shined as the men finished with seven top-eight performances and the women secured 12 top-eight finishes, two of which were first-place winners. Alexis Walker ’16 took first in the long jump, while Sarah Swenson ’18 finished in front in the 400m.

“In the 400m, the team knew going into it based off of seed times that it was going to be a good race,” Swenson wrote in an email to The Argus. “The top seeded runner had previously run a 57, and there were many women with times between 57 and 61, so there were definitely some good runners from other NESCAC schools, and some other DIII and DII schools to compete against.”

Swenson was the only athlete in her event who broke the one-minute mark in the finals, ahead of 36 other runners.

“I was really happy and kind of surprised with how I ran,” Swenson wrote. “Earlier in the season I took some time off to try to recover from a back injury I am still dealing with, so by our first meet my fitness level was not as high as I had wanted it to be. Once I started training again, I knew it would take some time until I was running faster times. I broke 60 seconds a few times during my senior season of high school, but that was on an outdoor track and I was never constantly running it.”

In addition to running in the 400m, Swenson finished fourth in the 200m. In the long jump, Walker leapt the farthest out of 34 competitors, edging out her closest opponent from MIT by 0.08 meters.

“Competition at Tufts is always tough,” Walker wrote in an email to The Argus. “Everyone is bringing their A-game so we have to as well. I think we had a pretty good day and showed our competitors that they shouldn’t count us out or underestimate us. I was pretty happy about my first-place finish in the long jump because as stated before, Tufts is always high-level competition. Overall, I wish I could have executed my jumping technique a little better but regardless, everything fell into place.”

Despite her similarly fantastic performance, Swenson is also ready to keep improving.

“Breaking 60 seconds was a goal I set myself at the beginning [of] this season, and from here on the goal is to keep improving it,” Swenson wrote. “With the 400, our coach tells us to focus on running a fast first lap, around 27, 28 seconds, and the second lap is generally slower, but throughout the season will hopefully get faster with more endurance training. I think my first lap of the 400 [at Tufts] went really well, but I began to lose it the second lap. So if there was one thing I could have done differently, it would be to have tried harder to maintain speed at the end of the race.”

Given the structure of competition in many track-and-field events, second chances abound as much as redemption itself. Drew nabbed a team-scoring third-place spot in the 60m for the men despite a preliminary time that was not exactly on par with his usual performance in the event.

“My prelim 60m time was disappointing, but I made a bad step out the blocks,” Drew wrote. “I excused that. The finals time was much better. My times are consistent, so that shows promise leading up to the championship meets. Things are looking good leading towards outdoors.”

Drew also ran the 200m, placing sixth out of 67.

“The 200 was tough, but there was plenty of competitive push during that particular event,” he wrote. “What I need to work on, however, is my focus within my running form during the race.  There was a split second when I lost my focus, and ultimately, the lead. It was a great race, and I’m glad I went through it last weekend to hammer it out this week during practice.”

Drew’s third-place performance in the 60m was one of three top-three Wesleyan finishes; the other two came from Luca Ameri ’15 in the 800m (in which he broke his personal record) and Evan Bieder ’15 in the mile.

“Tufts was our most competitive meet so far; the quality of other teams was very high, and we got a chance to see a lot of the teams we’ll be running against at DIII New England’s,” Ameri wrote in an email to The Argus. “The 800 was a lot of fun, it was a fast heat with a good group of runners. Overall I think it was a really important meet for the team. It was a great early tune-up for Championship season and gave some of the younger athletes a chance to run in a more competitive atmosphere.”

In total, the women scored 65 team points, behind Amherst’s third place performance. MIT took the women’s meet title. Wesleyan’s men put up 26 team points and tied with Franklin Pierce University, while the Coast Guard grabbed the men’s title.

Up next for the Cardinals is another weekend in Massachusetts as the team heads to Boston University’s Valentine’s Day Invitational on Friday, Feb. 13, followed by the Gordon Kelly Invitational at MIT on Saturday, Feb. 14. With New England Div. III Championships following the weekend after to kick-start the “championship season,” athletes are keeping their eyes on the prize and hoping to keep their streaks alive.

“My goals are to keep improving and running faster, scoring some points at DIIIs and trying to get some school records before I get out of here,” Ameri wrote.

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