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MIT track streak ends at 62

By David Rothstein

The track and field team finally met its match in a regular season meet, losing for the first time in six-and-a-half years. It took a good Division I school, Northeastern University, to topple the Division III Engineers from their perch atop a 62-meet win streak, with a 71-56 win Friday evening at the Johnson Athletics Center.

The Northeastern meet, scheduled last fall, was cause for much anticipation and preparation by MIT, especially in the December and January weeks preceding it.

From the outset it was clear that MIT would more than hold its own in the sprints and jumps. How well the Engineers could match up with the Huskies in the weight events and in the middle- and upper-distance running events, however, remained a question mark. In the end, Northeastern's strength in the 800 and 3000 meter races was the difference.

MIT jumped out to a quick lead as the weight men and the long jumpers went to work. John-Paul Clarke '91 came up with a huge, 57'-1" throw in his first turn at the 35-pound weight, which put him in first place for good. Teammate Eric Shank '90 pulled out second place with a 53'-43/4" toss on his last attempt.

Bill Singhose '90 and Kevin Scannell '92 began their long day by leaping to a one-two finish in the long jump, at 23'-11/4" and 23'-0", respectively, more than a foot better than the next place, which went to Northeastern junior Charles McCrea.

As the evening progressed, MIT forged surprisingly strong early leads -- 8-1, 19-8, 25-20, and 36-27. It was only the difference of a few places here and there, but the Engineers were drawing strength from their ability to stay ahead of the Huskies.

Mike Piepergerdes '92 pulled out a 15-meter win in the 1500 meter run. He held the early lead, lost it to Northeastern's DiBiaso with 400 meters to go, and regained it at the start of the bell lap, winning in 3:56.80 to DiBiaso's 3:58.3. The Northeastern runner came back near the meet's end to win the 3000 meters that put the meet out of reach for MIT.

In the next race, it was Singhose over Northeastern's McCrea by a nose in the 55-meter high hurdles, as both were timed at 7.79. MIT's luck was holding, and the meet grew more intense.

"I knew [MIT] would be up for this meet," said second-year Northeastern coach Mark Lech at the end of the evening's competition. "I talked to the kids all week ... [telling them] not to take [MIT] too lightly."

Northeastern's student body is considerably larger than MIT's, and Lech has approximately 10 scholarship athletes on his team.

Mark Dunzo '91 won the 400 meters easily in 49.80, but Boniface Makatiani '90 had a harder time in the 55 and 200 meter runs. MIT's top sprinter had to play second fiddle to Northeastern speedster Bruno Joline, who beat Makatiani in the 55, 6.48 to 6.58, after Makatiani's terrible start, and won the 200 in 22.18 to Makatiani's 23.00.

Makatiani, whose strength is the 400 meters, came back with a strong anchor leg for MIT's winning 1600-meter relay team, which also included Scannell, Singhose, Dunzo, and won in 3:20.68 to Northeastern's 3:22.87.

At the meet's midway point, Northeastern edged ahead, 41-40, and as the Huskies swept the top three places in the 800 to take a 50-40 lead, it became apparent that the tides of fortune were turning slowly against MIT.

"We gave it a hell of a try," said co-captain Singhose at the end of the meet. "Just couldn't quite pull it off."

Singhose pulled out three firsts (long jump, pole vault, hurdles) and a second (triple jump), and ran on the winning 1600-meter relay, but could only watch as Northeastern took one-two in the 3000, putting the score at 66-51, and ruling out the chance of an MIT upset.

The loss was the first that any of the current Engineers track and field men had experienced at MIT, and the first for head coach Gordon Kelly in a long time.

"I don't feel badly about [losing]," said Kelly. "I knew that could happen going in.

"We feel we have a good team, and when you have a good team, you should challenge it."

The consensus feeling among the runners was that they expressed no regrets and mostly excitement at having been tested to the extreme.

"Losing is painful," said Makatiani with a laugh. "Most of the meets have been pretty easy, but this makes it kind of interesting.

"I think it makes us more prepared for the bigger championships."

"This is the way we should lose it," said Singhose. "If we're ever going to lose one, we should lose it in this fashion. We got the best team we could go up against, and we gave it our best."

Those championships, which begin on the first weekend of February, are the Greater Boston Championships, the New England Division III Championships, the All-New England Championships, which MIT will host Feb. 23 and 24, and the NCAA Division III Championships, in March.