Men’s Track Ties for First at Div. III ChampionshipsBy Yuval Mazor
MIT’s Men’s Track & Field Team tied for first place with Williams College at the New England Division III Championships at Bates College last weekend.
MIT hoped to bring back their second championship in three years, but despite coming in as slight favorites for the first time in a decade, MIT ended up in a first place tie with 150.5 points. Wheaton College finished in a distant third with 81 points.
The meet started off on Friday with the pentathalon, an event MIT expected to dominate. Rick F. Rajter ’03 and Craig D. Mielcarz ’03 took the early lead and were never really challenged as they led an unprecedented first through seventh sweep of the event, with all seven MIT athletes breaking 3000 points.
Williams makes strong comeback
Despite jumping out to a 38 point lead after the first day, Coach Halston W. Taylor cautioned MIT not to be overconfident when the meet resumed Saturday morning and to concentrate on winning the individual battles with Williams’ athletes. Taylor’s words proved prescient as Williams took advantage of every MIT mistake, constantly chipping away at MIT’s lead.
The weight throw was the first event on Saturday, and MIT’s throwers rose to the occasion. It took Christopher J. Khan ’04 all six throws to get going, but he nailed the last one, improving two feet on his NCAA qualifying mark with a 56'1.5" throw earning him second place. Marios Michalakis ’04 was not seeded to score, but his throw of 48'6.75" was good enough for eighth. Unfortunately, MIT has not been nearly as successful in the shot put as the weight, and Williams took advantage of that weakness, placing first through third and eighth, and ultimately outscoring MIT 30-9 in the throws.
The jumps were a similar story, as MIT had a number of good performances, but Williams still outscored the Engineers. In the long jump, MIT had five of the 16 seeds, and although no one was seeded high, the Engineers were hoping for at least one breakout performance. However, with three of the five coming back from Friday’s pentathalon, MIT was unable to pull it off, and had to settle for an eighth place jump of 20'7.75" from Mielcarz. In the triple jump, Austin K. Neudecker ’05 passed a Williams jumper on his final attempt, taking third place with a leap of 44'11.5".
MIT loses ground in high jump
The high jump is typically one of MIT’s strongest events, but both of the Engineers’ jumpers, Mielcarz and Rajter, were starting to wear down from the pentathalon and earlier events. Neither was able to meet his seed, and facing very strong competition, Mielcarz’s 6'07" jump was only good enough for seventh place. The pole vault was MIT’s only bright spot in the jumps, as Nathan B. Ball ’05 took first clearing 14'06", and Daniel Kwon ’02 tied for third at 14'00". Despite the vaulters, Williams outscored MIT 30-25 in the jumps, and the 38 point cushion was almost gone.
With the field athletes struggling, MIT looked to the track to keep Williams at bay. The running finals began with the 1500m, and with three of the four fastest milers in the country going head-to-head, expectations were high. Sean J. Montgomery G let a Trinity College runner pull away in the middle of the race, and despite a strong finish, had to settle for second in 3:55.49, one place better than his seed.
In the 55m high hurdles, Rajter had run a season best of 7.95 to make the finals, and he fought through a back injury and fatigue to pull off seventh place in finals, two better than his seed. Also running their second races of the day, MIT’s 600m group was seeded first, fifth, and sixth, and after running hard in trials, they hoped to have enough to score big in finals. Sure enough, MIT runners won both heats of the finals, as Yuval Mazor ’02 beat teammate Jesse R. Alejandro ’05 by a mere 0.002 seconds, as both runners finished in 1:23.76. Mark N. Jeunnette ’02 finished close behind, taking fifth in 1:24.08, as MIT scored 22 points in the event.
The middle distance runners kept up the trend, as Montgomery came back to win the 800m, leading from start to finish, and cruising through the line in 1:53.76. Brian C. Anderson ’04 followed Montgomery’s plan, and ran a similar start-to-finish victory in the 1000m, finishing in 2:29.59. Although Zachary J. Traina ’05 did not win his event, after taking nearly a month off to recover from a hamstring injury, his 22.95 200m, was good enough for seventh place, and bettered his own freshman record by another 0.2 seconds.
MIT leads for distance events
With only the distance races and relays to go, MIT still had the lead, and it appeared they had weathered the storm. Daniel R. Feldman ’02 ran the 3000m, and easily beat his sixth place seed, finishing in second in 8:36.70. With high seeds in the 5000m, MIT hoped to put the meet away, but an ill Sean P. Nolan ’03 was unable to hang with leaders, and had to settle for fourth place. Williams took advantage of Nolan’s sickness, and won the race in a relatively slow 15:05.
The first two relays were unable to do their job, as the distance medley finished four seconds out of scoring, and the 4x400m, which was seeded to win, was never in the race and ended up in seventh. Williams took second and first, respectively, in the two relays, and with only one race to go, MIT found themselves trailing by two points.
Williams’ 4x800m squad ran in the first heat, and ran an impressive 8:03 to really put the pressure on MIT. MIT finally rose to the challenge, as Alan R. Raphael ’02 ran a tremendous 1:59 leadoff leg putting MIT way out in front. Juennette followed with a 1:58 split in his third race of the day, and Alejandro, also running his third race, held on after a quick first lap, to hand off with a 2:00 leg. Anderson left nothing in question, as he raced a 1:56 anchor leg, bringing home the victory in 7:55.64 and seal the tie with Williams.
Despite the last-minute heroics of the 4x800m relay team, MIT knew that it had not taken advantage of a great opportunity. While the team met its goals of an undefeated regular season and a Division III Championship, the tie was bittersweet at best.
This weekend the championship season continues as MIT returns to Boston University for the All-New England meet, where they will face the top runners from all divisions.