Team looks to nationals
By David Rothstein
DEDHAM -- The skies over Northeastern's Solomon Track may have been cloudless on Saturday during the All-New England meet, but the picture of MIT's chances at the national championships a week from now is not so clear.
Following a second-place finish at the indoor championships in March, MIT has been aiming for first at the outdoor championships, to be held May 23-26 at North Central College in Naperville, IL. Although several Engineers took firsts in the New England Division III championships two weeks ago, it has become increasingly apparent that MIT's chance for a high finish, or even a win, at nationals rests on the performances of seniors Bill Singhose and Boniface Makatiani.
Singhose has qualified in six events -- decathlon (he is the defending national champion), pole vault, long jump, 400-meter intermediate hurdles, 400-meter relay, 1600-meter relay -- but that is a mixed blessing.
"We have to try to maximize the point total of our team," said Singhose, "but at the same time, I have to try to survive.
"Normally I would do every event that I was qualified at nationals for, but six is a little unreasonable because of the scheduling."
The scheduling to which Singhose refers has him competing in nine events next Wednesday: the five first-day decathlon events (100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400) as well as qualifying rounds of the open long jump, pole vault, 400-meter intermediate hurdles, and 400-meter relay.
Makatiani, meanwhile, will compete in the 400 and the 400- and 1600-meter relays. If he can qualify this weekend in the 200, he will compete in that as well.
As many points as Singhose can gain, they will be meaningless if Makatiani does not place high in the 400 and perhaps score in the 200, in addition to helping the relays. Makatiani ran a speedy 46.84-second 400 earlier this season, but repeated competition in multiple events over the past few weeks appear to have tired him somewhat, as witnessed by his fourth-place finish at the All-New England meet.
Makatiani has the ability and incentive to win a national title in the 400 -- which would go nicely with his indoor national crown, won in March -- but it remains to be seen if a week of rest will be enough.
For retiring head coach Gordon Kelly, the national meet will be the last of a 28-year career. He does not know exactly what sort of competition MIT will face, but he knows that a national title will be hard to come by.
"We don't even know if we're going out there to win or, realistically, to be in the top five," said Kelly at the end of Saturday's competition. "Let's face it. Our success at the NCAA meet depends on Singhose and Makatiani, so it really depends on what they think they can do."
The Engineers are certain to face competition from the University of Wisconsin/Lacrosse and a small, but talented team from Lincoln University (PA). Teams from the West, which usually do not compete indoors, often make their presence known at the outdoor nationals. This will make scoring particularly difficult for MIT's two weightmen, junior John-Paul Clarke and senior Eric Shank. They finished first and second, respectively, in the hammer competition at the New England Division III meet.
So what is it going to take to win?
Makatiani, whose aspirations include running for the national team of his native Kenya, will have to run strong and relaxed.
Singhose will have to ask himself how tough he can be in his last collegiate meet.
People like Mark Dunzo '91 and Kevin Scannell '92 will have to continue what they've done so well all season as members of both relays. And if Dunzo can qualify for the open quarter -- he has one last chance this weekend -- he will have to aim for yet another personal best that might score one or two or more points.
Sophomore Kelly Davis has been erratic in the triple jump, setting a meet-record 47'-11" mark at the New England Division III meet one week, while failing to pass 46 feet the next. A 49-foot jump could win it all, and Davis is capable of that.
Senior Sean Kelley may yet qualify in the 10,000. If he can, he should be worth points at the national meet.
The weightmen -- Clarke and Shank -- may have odds stacked against them, but they have been known to pull through. A few more points perhaps.
And the Engineers will have to have a little bit of luck.
"We got bad breaks [at the indoor national championship], and we got second," said Dunzo. "We're gonna need good breaks to take first or second outdoors.
"But it's possible."
Anybody see the weather forecast for Illinois? Does it call for clear skies?