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Athlete of the Month

Benjamin A. Schmeckpeper ’05

By Jennifer DeBoer

SPORTS EDITOR

Sophomore Benjamin A. Schmeckpeper started his running back in Shorewood, Wisconsin. Last year he brought his talent to the cross-country course and the indoor and outdoor track. This year, he is one of MIT’s top two harriers, and plans to continue his stellar track career in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, and steeplechase. Ben somehow found time between computer science and double practices to sit down with The Tech and answer a few questions.

The Tech: What got you started on running?

Schmeckpeper: I tried football, but I was too small for that, so I started track during the spring of seventh grade. I ran pretty well then. ... Junior year I started running year-round.

TT: How was your first year as a college athlete?

Schmeckpeper: The first year’s pretty challenging academically, so it was tough at times and I had to figure out how to manage everything.

TT: How’s it going so far this year?

Schmeckpeper: I feel much more prepared this year. I’m a lot more confident and this year has been going so much better.

TT: What did you do this summer to gear up for this season?

Schmeckpeper: For my summer training I started out at about fifty miles a week. ... The last three weeks in August were 100, 105, and 110 milers. I tried to keep that up at the beginning of the season, but its kind of hard to do that with school.

TT: I can see that being difficult. Haven’t all these miles wreaked havoc on your legs?

Schmeckpeper: I’ve been pretty healthy this year. My only problem was at the alumni meet. I tried running without socks and I wound up with blisters all over the bottoms of my feet.

TT: So you’ve cut down on the crazy mileage then?

Schmeckpeper: I just do five miles every morning now and the team workouts with everyone.

TT: Oh, that’s all. What exactly gets you out of bed early every morning when you could be snoozing?

Schmeckpeper: I remember nationals last year.

TT: Was that a good race?

Schmeckpeper: Well ... [Daniel R. Feldman ’02] had a good race, and [Sean P. Nolan ’03] had a good race, and I ... didn’t really show up ... I was 16 seconds off of my pre-national time on the same course. That’s definitely something that gets me up at 8 a.m. every morning.

TT: How did pre-nationals go this year?

Schmeckpeper: I ran my second best cross-country race ever. I got fifth and it was the first time I beat Sean.

TT: How do you like the team?

Schmeckpeper: Oh, the guys are great. They’re the reason I look forward to coming to practice everyday.

TT: So when was the first best cross-country race ever?

Schmeckpeper: At All-New Englands I beat Sean again. I feel pretty confident about my chances to get to nationals as an individual, since the top nine in the New England region go.

TT: What do you think got you to where you are now, looking all the way to the national meet?

Schmeckpeper: I started running with Sean Nolan in January, which was a radical change. It was probably the single most decisive turning point in my running career. [He and] Feldman are so focused on what they’re doing. ... They never back down, and Sean’s probably the main reason that I run the way I do.

TT: Why is that?

Schmeckpeper: Sean serves as an example for me. With his four years of experience, he’s a much more tactical runner than I am. I’m more inclinced just to get to the front as fast as I can and try to stay there.

TT: How’s that strategy been working for you?

Schmeckpeper: It’s a lot more open out front, and there are a lot of people who key their races off of you.

TT: No pressure, huh?

Schmeckpeper: It’s just more exciting. I don’t feel much pressure since I feel like I belong there.