Nine track and field stars head to Nationals following successful meet

It had been over two years since David Chelimo ’17 had competed in a 3,000 meter race; his two year hiatus from the event did not seem to matter as he charged to a record shattering 3k pace of eight minutes, 19.71 seconds—breaking the previous school record in the discipline, held by Jeff Hale ’15, by just under seven seconds.

Chelimo’s race at Tufts this past weekend qualifies him for next weekend’s  Division III Nationals in Naperville,  Illinois. He will be joined by Jenna Athanasopoulos ’17, Michaela Athanasopoulos ’17, Taylor Depalo ’19, Michaela Garrett ’17, Caitlin Lawlor ’18, Rachel Leonard ’19, Hannah Springhorn ’19, and Sophie Stokes Cerkvenik ’19. Just two weekends ago in Boston, Lawlor crushed the Colby women’s 3k record by a margin of a whopping 17 seconds, finishing with a time of nine minutes 47.73 seconds to book her a bid to nationals. Springhorn will also be heading to Illinois after an impressive, sub-5-minute-mile time of four minutes, 55 seconds in Boston.

Chelimo ’17 has been a force for four years in the NESCAC both in Cross Country and on the track. Moreover, he has shown incredible determination to both overcome the injuries that sidelined him for most of last year’s track season and to achieve even higher level results than he was getting before his injury.  Fellow long distance teammate Rob Dettmann ’20 remarked, “His work ethic is crazy. He’s naturally an incredible runner, but when you mix his natural ability with his work ethic, you’re gonna get a guy who shatters the school 3k record.”

“I have harbored the idea of breaking a school record since my first year when I missed the 1500m school record by 0.7s,” Chelimo said. “But I had not thought about the indoor 3000m school record until a few weeks ago when I knew that I had to break the record to qualify to Nationals. I knew I had the ability but I needed a well executed race to go after the record.”

Other than Chelimo’s historic feat, a plethora of other Mules had a great day at Tufts. On the women’s side, Stokes Cerkvenik,  Leonard, Depalo, and Athanasopoulos took first place in a field of seven teams in the 1,600 meter relay, finishing with a time of 3:55.0. Stokes Cerkvenlik also got sixth place in the 60 meter hurdles.

On the men’s side, senior Brian Sommers ’17 won the 400 meter with a sub-50 second time of 49.26, and freshman sensation James Gibson ’20 leapt into a season-best mark of 23-feet, 2.5-inches in the long-jump, good enough to win the event. Though only a few months into his college career, Gibson already stands only four inches away from the Colby long-jump record that has stood for almost a half century—a 1969 leap courtesy of Rodney Braithwaite.

Gibson was cognizant of where the record stood coming into Colby and “deemed it a good goal to work towards.” However, he said, “Whenever I jump, the last thing on my mind is breaking a record.”

After dominating the competition, Gibson says, “I was excited to to win. I couldn’t contain my smile, but I need to do better going forward so I don’t miss out on future opportunities.

As for what boosted him to an incredible last jump of the day that got him the win, Gibson said, “Throughout the day, I had put together some decent jumps, so by the last jump I was calm and not really worried. I knew all I had to do was run, jump, and let the rest take care of itself.” Gibson  also noted that, “Most of the credit goes to coach Calvin Hunter, though. He talked me through some minor tweaks and then stepped back.”

Gibson narrowly missed qualifying for Indoor-Nationals; however, Chelimo, Lawlor, and Springhorn will all compete next weekend in Illinois before the outdoor season commences in late March.