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Injuries undercut men's track team

By David Rothstein

NEW LONDON, CT -- Writing its own version of Things Fall Apart, the undermanned indoor track and field team finished second Saturday at the New England Division III Championships at the US Coast Guard Academy, scoring 62 points to Brandeis University's 94.

For a team that has not lost a dual or triangular meet in almost six years, a team that has won 10 of the 18 indoor and outdoor New England Division III Championships, finishing second was second rate. The defeat at the hands of the Judges broke MIT's streak of consecutive indoor titles at four.

The Engineers had a fairly strong showing in the field events, including first-place finishes in both the 35-pound weight throw and the shot put by senior co-captain Scott Deering. But MIT scored only 12 points in the middle- and upper-distance races, and in the three relays, finishing the meet on a note that was more a whimper than the bang that the team has been known for over the years.

"From the 400[-meter run] up," said Assistant Coach Halston Taylor after the meet, "we did not compete with any confidence."

MIT's confidence clearly suffered a blow when injuries began to build up in the week leading up to the Division III meet. Top 400-meter men Mark Dunzo '91 and Karim Roshd '89 went down with injuries, joining John Tewksbury '92 (triple jump, 55-meter high hurdles) and leading scorer Bill Singhose '90, both of whom had been out for several weeks with pulled hamstring muscles. Dunzo and Roshd were expected to place high in the 400 and contribute to a strong 1600-meter relay team, while Singhose was to be a strong contender in the long and triple jumps, and had a virtual lock on the pole vault.

In the end, however, MIT did not compete up to the expectations of many, including the coaches, who were looking for 90 to 100 points.

"The bottom fell out" after good performances in the early events, said Head Coach Gordon Kelly simply.

Those early performances included Deering's work in the throwing events, as he threw the weight 58'91/4" to win by over 21/2 feet, and putted the shot 48'111/4".

Paul McKenzie '90 recorded 10 points for the Engineers on the strength of a second place in the high hurdles (in 7.93 seconds, a personal best) and a fifth in the 200-meter dash. McKenzie also ran a hard, if futile, leg for the 1600-meter relay team -- which did not place -- earning him praise from Kelly.

John-Paul Clarke '91 picked up an important fourth in the weight throw (51'11/4") and Chris Masalsky '91 a sixth in the shot put (45'31/2") to give MIT a total of 25 points in the throwing events alone, a strong start.

Freshman Kevin Scannell added to that total with nine points in the jumps, as he finished second in the long jump, at 22'4", and sixth in the triple, at 43'13/4".

Brandeis started slowly, scoring only four points in the field events, compared to MIT's 34. But after 12 points in the high hurdles -- McKenzie's second place and freshman Dean Moon's fourth -- MIT managed only 16 points, while Brandeis ran to the tune of 78. The Engineers were especially hurt in scoring only one point in the set of middle-distance races (400, 500, 800 and 1000 meters).

That lone point came from Kyle Robinson, a senior co-captain, in the 1000. Robinson coasted to a 2:35.90 win in his semi-final heat, but was unable to repeat the performance in the final, finishing sixth in 2:56.03.

Earlier in the day, Mike Piepergerdes '92, a regular point-scorer during the regular season, failed to score in the 1500 meters. Piepergerdes was seeded second in the race. Starting out slowly, in fifth place, Piepergerdes moved up to third on the second lap around the Academy's 180-meter track. He maintained his third place for three laps of the 81/2-lap race, but faded midway and finished just shy of sixth place, in 4:08.42.

David Wright '89 picked up two points with a fifth-place finish in the 55-meter dash, crossing the line in 6.84.

Senior Eugene Tung ran a slowish 15:11.5 for third place in the 5,000 meters, but MIT needed more points in that race as well, from both Tung and Sean Kelley '89, who entered the race as the top seed but did not score.

With injuries taking a grand toll on the team, Coach Kelly admitted that "everybody had to compete to their full potential" in order for MIT to contend for first place against a decent Brandeis squad. An unfair amount of pressure was placed on the shoulders of the several freshmen competing, he said.

Tom Washington '92, a regular 6'4" to 6'6" high jumper, was unable to clear the starting height of 6'2". Although his torso easily cleared the bar on all three attempts, he caught the bar with his feet each time.

As the day's competition wound down, the 3200-meter relay teams circled the track, running for final honors for their schools. The meet's winning and second-place teams had been determined.

Brandeis Coach Norman Levine, stopwatch in hand, slowly paced the infield with occasional words of encouragement for his runners, who would place second.

"That really is a shame," he said, referring to MIT's number of injuries.

"Obviously, we are happy to win," he said. "But we would have been happier to win if MIT [were] healthy."

It seems as though he was not the only one that would have been happier, if the would haves and the could haves and the should haves had indeed been.