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Coast Guard Edges Out MenUs Cross Country Despite Top Races

By Rich Rosalez
Team Member

This past Saturday, the MIT men's cross country team returned to Institute Park at Worcester Polytechnic Institute with hopes of winning the Constitution Athletic Conference title for a sixth consecutive year. Earlier this year, MIT cruised to victory at Institute park and this race was a sure way to measure the team's progress as it prepares for National Qualifiers.

The harriers were well aware that to win the conference title for the seventh time in eight years the team would have to out-race an impressive squad from the United States Coast Guard Academy. When the gun sounded, and over one hundred runners thundered down the first straight away, it was immediately apparent that Coast Guard had planned on taking the title away from the Engineers.

Coast Guard started the race extremely fast, with their top runner leading the race, and with enough runners in the front pack to steal a win. Aware that the team's title hopes were in trouble, co-captain Mike Parkins '99 and Chris McGuire '00 responded, waiting to make a move on the lead runner.

Parkins and McGuire let the Coast Guard runner take a 50-meter lead before they reeled him in and watched him suffer in a pointless attempt to keep up. MIT's dynamic duo outperformed the competition once again, as Parkins earned Runner of the Year honors, winning in a course record 25:40. McGuire also finished under the old course record time and was awarded All-Conference Honors as he claimed second place in 25:43 to finish off MIT's lethal one-two combo.

As Coast Guard runners followed by placing 3rd, 4th, and 5th, the team title was still up for grabs. Co-captain Rich Rosalez '98 battled several lead runners from other conference schools and steadily moved his way up from 15th place at the first mile to a seventh place finish in 26:37. Rosalez also earned All-Conference honors for finishing in the top ten, and like McGuire and Parkins, he took over a minute off his time from the race at Institute Park earlier in the season.

Coast Guard captures later places

Coast Guard's depth was too much for the Engineers after that point, as the Bears captured 8th and 9th to seal the victory. Mark Strauss was not far behind, taking eleventh place in 26:49 on the wet and winding five mile course. Sohail Husain '98 improved tremendously to finish in 12th place in 27:08, guaranteeing MIT a second place finish.

Phil Loiselle '01 and Liyan Guo '01 rounded out the Engineers top seven, finishing in 15th and 17th place respectively. Several other runners had notable performances. Ray Molnar '00 and Frank Johnston '00 ran together and stayed close to the varsity runners as they finished 19th and 20th. A pack of freshmen, who worked together throughout the race, finished next, as Jeff Billing '01, Ken Walker '01, and Aaron Adler '01, placed 23rd, 24th, and 26th. Ryan Peoples '00 also finished.

In the last cross country race of his MITcareer, Chuck Van Buren '98 finished 40th, improving over a minute throughout the season. Ed Keehr '01 finished next for MIT, in 50th, and Gus Blomquist '99 narrowly edged Dave Kelman '99 to follow.

Stanley Hu '00, Reid Anderson '01, and Amay Champaneria '01 continued to improve, as Anderson and Champaneria both finished the season with their best performance thus far. Albert Hung '01, Kaoru Aou '00, and Gerardo Martinez '99 also ran strong.

Rob Cox '01 and Ashley Claybourne '99 round out the harrier's impressive roster, ranked as high as 16th in the nation this season. Coast Guard finished ahead of MIT on the day by a score of 29 to 35, as both schools finished well ahead of third place Springfield College's 78 points.

Looking toward championship

After the race, Parkins said, "I'm deeply honored to be Runner of the Year. I'm really happy with the way I've been improving, but I'm mad at coach for cutting my playing time each meet."

The harriers have compiled a record of 5323 while defeating numerous Division I schools and nationally ranked Division III schools. Next Saturday, the Engineers will travel to the University of Southern Maine for New England Division III Championship.

The team hopes to earn a berth for National Championships and Parkins and McGuire expect to qualify individually.