WELLESLEY — Election night watchers at Wellesley College alternated between joyous applause and nervous chatter, praying into the late evening for Hillary Clinton to pull off what seemed like an improbable presidential win.
As a massive TV screen inside the college’s gym showed Clinton with a victory in Colorado at about 10:45 p.m., applause erupted. And the Clinton supporters let out a collective “noooooo” when Trump was projected to win North Carolina.
As more results came in, Lena Engbretson, a sophomore, wiped tears from her eyes. Asked why she was crying, she replied, “Why not? I have no words.”
When school officials put on the watch party, complete with beads and popcorn, they were hoping for a victory. After all, Clinton entered Election Day as the front-runner in the race for president. Officials dressed up the massive gym in blue — the school’s signature color — and adorned it with balloons.
As Clinton’s prospects dimmed throughout the night, it was not going to be easy. But the women of Wellesley — including current students and old friends of Clinton — had come too far with her to turn back now.
“I think it’s just a test that she is going through,’’ said Kathy Covarrubias, a 1988 Wellesley graduate and Framingham resident.
The night was still young, she said, and many key battleground states had not been called.
Ellen Clark, of Illinois, was trying to keep calm. She had traveled from her home state to be in this gym, in this moment.
“It’s certainly going to be a long night,’’ she said, before adding: “There are so many states coming in for [Donald Trump] early. The map looks red. You feel like it’s something to worry.”
Martha Stearns, who knew Clinton when she attended Wellesley, grew increasingly apprehensive as the night continued. She equated the feeling to knowing a really good friend is going to have major surgery.
“You hope that it will be OK, but it might not,’’ Stearns said.
On the bucolic campus, the stakes were high for Clinton. She is not just a former first lady, former US senator from New York, or former US secretary of state. She is also part of the Wellesley family — forever Blue.
Clinton had walked this leafy campus in the mid-to-late 1960s, honed her political science chops, and led the Young Republicans Club. After Clinton graduated, the Wellesley community watched her march onward from Yale Law School to advocate for women and children, and later, to the White House and US Senate.
Aviva Feldman, a 19-year-old sophomore from Illinois, said a Clinton presidency would show the world how “powerful women can be.” The contentious campaign season, she said, only made the Wellesley community love Clinton more.
“It really brought the college together,’’ she said. “We watched all the debates. Everybody rallied behind her.”
Stearns had come to Wellesley after voting last week. She clutched framed photographs of herself and Clinton in Washington, D.C., and recalled their connections through the years.
She and Lindsay Miller — both of Cambridge — said they came to know Clinton when they shared a dorm at Wellesley. Stearns, a religion major, and Miller, an English major, befriended Clinton during their runs to get the mail. Both voted for her when she ran for the student government presidency. And they kept in touch over the years. “I like to say that I voted for her [for] president before,’’ said Stearns with a smile.
Miller said she and her husband voted for Clinton on Tuesday. When they were students together, they were at the cusp of the women’s movement, leaving the past behind and heading into a bold new era, she said.
Stephanie Leong of Wayland brought her 13-year-old daughter to watch the results. She wanted to be here. She wanted to savor what might be a historic moment.
“It’s just an amazing night to hopefully see the first woman win the election,’’ she said. “If she doesn’t win, it would be soul crushing.’’
Caroline Bechtel, a Wellesley senior who skipped homework to watch the election results, also marked the moment. She grew up in Indiana, a state dominated by Republicans. Like Clinton, she said, she parted political ways with the Republican Party. Her parents, she said, were voting for Donald Trump, the Republican nominee. But Bechtel supports Clinton.
“A woman breaking through the highest glass ceiling and breaking through what had previously been a male occupied space . . . is a huge celebratory moment,’’ she said.Meghan E. Irons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.