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Tech XC Follows Plan to Victory

By Alisha R. Schor

TEAM MEMBER

It is a common misconception about cross country that it is a sport that requires little strategy, one that lacks any sort of tactics beyond “run fast.” At last Saturday’s conference championship, held at Clark University, the MIT women’s cross country team definitively disproved this theory.

The plan for going after the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference title was to let the race go out hard and catch opponents over the last half of the five-kilometer course. Assistant Coach Harold B. Hatch predicted that such a race would require 60 points for a win, with the victory going to the low scorer.

In a near-perfect execution of the strategy, the lady Tech runners edged Wellesley College for the victory, scoring 61 points, five more than Wellesley. Wheaton College took third place with 72 points.

“We certainly ran through our race plan to come through in the third mile,” Hatch said.

MIT entered the race as the underdogs, behind both Wellesley and Wheaton in the New England Division III coaches’ poll. The Engineers prevailed, nevertheless, in one of the closest NEWMAC races ever.

The “NEWMAC [championship] has gotten so much more competitive over the past few years; to have three strong teams is amazing, so that makes our victory even sweeter,” said Captain Martha W. Buckley ’04.

According to Buckley, the Tech victory came from pure desire. “MIT cross country was tougher than the competition -- and we wanted it more -- so we came through and won,” Buckley said.

In addition to having athletes fill their assigned roles, the win was cinched by a number of personal records and unexpectedly good races. Buckley broke away from Wellesley’s first runner to take second in the field (18:22), closely followed by her usual companion Julia C. Espel ’05 in fifth (18:36). A surprise finish gave MIT three All-Conference athletes, with Karen L. Condon ’07 finishing fourteenth in 19:10.

“Looking at results from last week’s race [against Wellesley] I knew it was going to take a lot of work on everyone’s part. People stepping it up today was what made it happen,” Condon said.

The scoring five recorded the tightest spread of the season on Saturday, running only 65 seconds apart. Additionally, the team time of 1:34:53 set a new MIT women’s cross country record.

“It was a total team effort, no question. Our depth really helped,” Hatch said.

Exceptional races were found throughout the ranks of the 25 runners that competed. Kelly Kuo ’06 set a personal record for the distance and stepped up to fill in as MIT’s seventh runner, followed by captain Katie R. Huffman ’04, who set a season best and finished eighth for the team, despite battling a season-long injury. Several personal bests were recorded, even though the race was held on one of the toughest courses of the season.

The conference championship meet was the last race of the season for the majority of the team. In two weeks, MIT’s top seven runners will compete at the NCAA regional meet in Maine, where they hope to qualify individuals for the national meet the following weekend.