CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Competing in a pair of non-scoring Invitational meets over the weekend, the MIT women's track and field squad had a chance to achieve some strong individual performances. The Engineers, competing at both the Valentine's Meet at Boston University and their own Coed Invite, were able to capitalize on this opportunity, as a number of athletes reached NCAA qualifying standards, while Portia Jones and the Distance Medley Relay posted squad the fastest times in Division III in their events on the season.
Jones ran a blistering time of 55.98 seconds in the 400m, a new MIT record and the fastest time in the country so far this year by nearly two seconds. Competing against a number of Division I and club runners, Jones placed 10th in the event. Jamie Simmons joined Jones in the 400 and ran a personal best of 58.65, just missing the NCAA provisional mark. Martha Gross also ran a personal best, finishing in 58.91.
The Distance Medley Relay squad of Jones, Simmons, Brooke Johnson and Alina Gatowski, filling in for Jacqui Wentz, ran very impressively, finishing in 11:55.71, setting a new Institute record en route to the fastest time in Division III. Johnson led off in the 1200-meter leg, finishing in 3:38.2, followed by Jones' 55.8 second 400-meter leg. Simmons, running 800 meters for just the second time in her career, finished with a solid split of 2:17.0. Gatowski saved perhaps the best performance for last, completing the 1600-meter anchor leg in 5:04.8, nearly 14 seconds faster than her previous best at that distance.
MIT's other relay, the 4x400-meter quartet of Jones Simmons, Gross and Hazel Briner were also impressive, finishing the race 3:53.94, also setting a school record with a time that stands at number two on the NCAA performance list.
Johnson also had an NCAA qualifying performance in the mile, finishing in 5:02.46, although it was not as fast as her 5:00.51 run from a week ago. Marie Burkland joined Johnson in the mile and ran a personal-best of 5:12.57.
Other competitors at Boston University included Kristen Aarsvold (1:21.74) in the 500m, Margaret Leibovic (27.48) in the 200, and Maggie Lloyd, who ran a personal-record of 10:34.84 in the 3000.
On Saturday, some of the sprinters and field athletes competed back across the river at the Shobrys and Aronson track. Briner came back from her 4x400 leg to achieve a pair of personal bests in the pole vault and long jump. Briner finished sixth in the long jump with her 15-10.50 foot effort while clearing 12-0.50 feet to win the pole vault competition.
The Engineers will look to defend their NCAA New England Division III Championship next weekend, traveling to University of Southern Maine for the regional championship meet, beginning Friday, February 19.