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In Northeastern, MIT faces toughest opponent

By David Rothstein

The men's indoor track season opens tomorrow when the Engineers host Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Amherst College at the Johnson Athletic Center at 1 pm. Pity the visitors.

MIT has not lost an indoor or outdoor dual or triangular meet since the beginning of the 1983 indoor season, when the Holy Cross Crusaders topped MIT by two points. Since then, the Engineers have racked up 59 meets without a loss and have finished no worse than third in the indoor and outdoor New England Division III Championships.

So this season, like most for MIT's track team, is not about the little people like Amherst or WPI. It is about Championship meets. About the N.E. Div. III's, about the Greater Boston Championships, and about National Div. III's.

This year, however, there's a twist.

On Jan. 19, the Engineers host Northeastern University, a strong New England Div. I squad. MIT has beaten Div. I schools before -- Holy Cross and St. Lawrence University, for example -- but none as good as Northeastern. No doubt about it, THE STREAK, and a lot of pride, is on the line this time.

Despite losing several key scorers from last year's indoor squad, this year's team is as strong a team as head coach Gordon Kelly is likely to see in a while.

One reason is senior Boniface Makatiani, an outdoor runner who is competing on the indoor track for the first time. Perhaps New England's finest collegiate 400-meter man, Makatiani will give MIT great strength in the sprints and relays at any level of competition.

He is joined by Mark Dunzo '91, who is ever-improving in the 400 and should, along with Makatiani, make MIT unbeatable in that event all the way through to the February All-New England Championships . . . or farther.

In the can-do-anything category, there is senior Bill Singhose, last year's leading scorer indoors and outdoors, and the defending national Div. III decathalon champion. Singhose is New England's best pole vaulter and a strong contender in both the long and triple jumps. He can also score in the high jump. And the 55-meter high hurdles. And the 200 meters, and the relay events, and probably a lot of other events.

Last year Singhose's injured hamstring, along with Dunzo's injured knee, probably cost MIT the indoor New England Div. III title, one they had captured each of the previous four years.

Expect the title to be back this year.

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If the Engineers want to compete well in the bigger meets, they will have to pick up the slack in the weight events left by the graduation of Scott Deering, a national-caliber thrower, who won virtually every shot put and 35-pound weight throw he entered last year.

Weightman John-Paul Clarke '91 came on strong at the end of last year's season, and if he continues to improve, MIT will hold its own in the weights.

The Engineers return all their jumpers, and should fare well in that area as well. If sophomore high jumper Tom Washington's knee holds up, the Engineers have yet another strong scorer.

The picture is not so clear about MIT's middle and upper-distance runners. The Engineers have two strong runners in Mike Piepergerdes '92, in the 800 and 1500 meters, and Sean Kelley '89, in the longer events. While both are capable of fast times, both have been inconsistent in the big meets. Senior Joe Kowalski, a middle-distance man, was injured early in practice this year, but should be productive in the near future.

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The Northeastern meet (Jan. 19) will be the indoor season's most interesting one, even though the championship meets count for more.

Huskies coach Tom Lech gave this rundown of what he expects in a telephone interview last week:

"It'll be a good meet for some of our younger people . . . and maybe for some of our older runners, too."

Lech said that he accepted MIT's invitation primarily because MIT will host the All-New England Championships, but also because he has "a lot of respect for the [MIT] program."

Maybe you don't have enough respect, Coach Lech, but you do have nine to 12 scholarships with which to work.

MIT will not win this one. But even in losing, the Engineers will have a chance to prove a lot more than they can by beating up on schools like Amherst or WPI.