Harriers Finish Season Strongly At Snow National Qualifier MeetBy Ray Molnar
The men's cross country team put on their snow gear as they headed to the starting line of last Saturday's race at the University of Southern Maine. Five inches of freshly fallen snow compounded with a generally hilly layout made for an exceptionally demanding National Qualifier meet.
A vain early morning attempt to clear the course managed only to leave most of the five-mile path covered with ice and mud, a small improvement over the parts still covered with snow. Everyone knew the race had to be slow, but this only left more room for the tactical engineers to make their mark.
With only three teams qualifying for nationals, the Engineers had their work cut out for them as they entered the meet. Faltering in the last few meets, they were ranked ninth in New England after being as high as third in the middle of the season. Additionally, neither Mike Parkins '99 nor Chris McGuire '00 were considered contenders for the six individual qualifying spots despite battling evenly with the powerhouses throughout the regular season. MIT had something to prove and they were ready to show it.
As the gun went off the engineers settled back for a fairly conservative start. Knowing that the difficult course and demanding weather would punish those who pressed too hard at the beginning, they set themselves up for moves later in the race. Parkins and McGuire stayed just off the lead pack while Sohail Hussain '98, Rich Rosalez '98, and Ray Molnar '00 fed off of each other near the middle of the pack. Frank Johnston '00 and Mark Strauss '01 played it even safer by staying a few seconds back from the others.
The team ate up the field as they ran the early miles. Every member passed people, threatening the teams ahead of them. At the halfway point the team looked strong and ready to fight to the top. Parkins surged, forging a path for him and McGuire to reach the top guns in the lead.
Hussain and Rosalez also worked together, steadily improving their position to the top third of the field of 190 runners. Johnston had caught Molnar and together they fought their way through the masses to keep sight of the others.
Unfortunately, the difficult race took its toll on the Beavers. The team did not have enough energy stored up to make the necessary final moves. Parkins continued to chase down the leaders finishing 12th, a heartbreaking three seconds from a qualifying position.
McGuire fell a little behind in the final mile to end up in 25th. Hussain and Rosalez stayed close together finishing in 55th and 65th while Johnston closed out the scoring in 84th.
Strauss eventually caught the fading Molnar and they rounded out the team by finishing close together in 101st and 110th.
The team ended up eighth with 241 points while Williams College won the meet with a 68. Brandeis University and Keene State took second and third, qualifying them in the NCAADivision IIInational meet this Saturday at Franklin Park.
Co-captain Rosalez summed up the season well, "It was a tough race. Nobody can really be disappointed with how we placed. We were hoping for a lot more at the beginning of the season, but we have a very young team."