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Dunzo wins 400 at finals


By David Rothstein

MIDDLETOWN, CT -- In this, perhaps the twilight year of the indoor track and field team's history at the NCAA Division III Championships, MIT sent only two competitors to the title meet, held last weekend at Wesleyan University. But the two, senior co-captains Mark Dunzo and John-Paul Clarke, brought home 16 points for the Engineers, good for a seventh-place tie with North Central College.

Dunzo earned gold in the 400-meter competition, winning the slowish race start to finish in 49.37 seconds. And Clarke, despite having a less-than-perfect day in the 35-pound weight throw ring, took third in that event, with a 56-foot, 91/4-inch toss.

The University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse -- last year's third-place finisher -- loaded seemingly every event and took the team title (58 points), followed by the defending champion Lincoln (PA) University (471/2), Nebraska Wesleyan University (31) and Haverford College (24).

With the task of attaining personal glory in the defense of Boniface Makatiani '90's victory in the 400 at last year's national indoor championships, Dunzo went to work on Friday evening in the qualifying heat of the 400, winning the race easily from lane 5.

Dunzo's qualifying time of 49.80, the only sub-50 in the preliminary 400 heats, set up a fi-

nal race against Lincoln rivals Rodney Moore and Lincoln Townsend the next day. Moore and Townsend finished one-two in the first 400 qualifying heat.

Sprint training helps

But the final of the 400 was over almost before it began. Head coach Halston Taylor this season worked Dunzo in the shorter sprints, strengthening him and allowing him to run more relaxed in the 400.

Dunzo blasted out of the lane 3 blocks despite a quick gun, making up a stagger on the first backstretch, and easily won the race to the break. Leading by 10 meters at the 300-meter mark, Dunzo cruised home.

THIS GRAF To be fair, Moore and Townsend both had run a 1600-meter relay qualifying race the night before, in addition to the 400 heat. But Dunzo was not about to let anyone else win on Saturday.

"The best Division III 400-meter man in the country." phrase below was in italics; I'm appealing to Andrea to change it back... ask her, I guess -dr Having passed the finish line, he gave a quick glance over his shoulder. The realization of victory flooded in. The best Division III 400-meter man in the country. "Oh, yes!" he exclaimed.

Dunzo's win put him among the elite few MIT athletes who have won national titles. With school records in the indoor 55- and 200-meter races, the indoor and outdoor 1600-meter relays and the outdoor 400-meter relay, and now a national title ("gold hardware," in this team's lingo), can we mention Dunzo's name in the same breath as, say, that of Makatiani, considered MIT's finest runner?

Dunzo was gracious: "Well, he still has the [400 and 500 records]. He still has this . . . mystique about him. He never ran as fast as you knew he could, so he's still the best man ever to run track at MIT."

Third place in weight throw

For Clarke, the day ended in some disappointment, despite his having the third-best Division III throw in the nation that day.

Clarke's warm-up throws, one of which slapped the 60-foot tape marker, looked encouraging, but those throws may have cost him the championship.

"I couldn't generate enough speed [after the warmups]," said a quiet and typically reflective Clarke after the competition. "I spent all my energy, my nervous energy."

Clarke had the best throw (55@#-41/4") of his preliminary flight, despite throwing low and tight. The second of his three preliminary throws sliced right, the ball rolling gently into a photographer's camera bag 75 feet away.

Throwing fifth in the final round, Clarke uncorked a 56@#-91/2" toss -- his best of the day -- to take an early lead, but Wisconsin, Eau Claire's Daniel Schmidt threw 57@#-51/2" on the next throw. Schmidt wound up in second place, while St. Thomas' Ben Bautch took first, with a best throw of 59@#-51/4".

"I've been beaten over the head many times at nationals," Clarke said. "That's life," he said with a little smile.

No team goals this year

Both MIT trackmen said that coming to the championships without expectation of a team victory reduced the pressure to perform well.

"It made it easier," said Dunzo, "but it was kind of sad. You rally around the whole team aspect. It was different."

Last year's team drove to Smith College's track in Northampton with full and legitimate expectations of winning the national indoor championship. But bad luck prevailed, and MIT took second, behind Lincoln.

The 1990 championship campaign left the track team in shock, but this year's results were pleasing.

Despite the absence of true team effort, Dunzo said the meet was "still a lot of fun.

"Coach Taylor was more relaxed than I'd ever seen him. It was kind of a chance for Coach Taylor to reap some benefits, because he's been working with me all four years. I was a project and, well, things came to pass."

They sure did.