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MIT Men’s Track & Field Team Wins Top Spot at New Englands

By Yuval Mazor

TEAM MEMBER

For the third time in four years, MIT’s Men’s Track & Field team won the New England Division III championships. The championship meet, hosted at MIT, was expected to be a dogfight, with at least five teams contending for the title, although MIT was a slight favorite, having finished the regular season undefeated.

Led by the senior class, MIT jumped out to a big lead and refused to let anyone get close, winning with 120 points. Williams, co-champions in 2002, narrowly edged out Tufts 88 to 87 for second and third places. Bowdoin (72.5) and Bates (60) rounded out the top five in the 26-team meet.

MIT sweeps pentathlon

The meet started off on Friday with the pentathlon, an event MIT has owned for the past four years. Captains Craig D. Mielcarz ’03 and Richard F. Rajter ’03 were expected to go 1-2, and after jumping to a big lead after the hurdles and long jump, they focused on conserving energy over the next three events to be as fresh as possible for their events on Saturday.

The competition was not without drama, as Thomas M. Hoover ’05 and Victor L. Williamson ’04 were seeded for 7th and 8th, but were hoping to do better. Hoover used the efficiency approach, scoring solidly in all five events to take third place.

Williamson was more erratic, coming into the last event -- the 1000 meters -- in sixth place. After getting out very aggressively, Williamson looked spent with 300 to go, but managed to summon his strength over the last 150, kicking in to win the race and complete the MIT sweep, 1-4. When the competition resumed Saturday morning, MIT was already enjoying a 20-point lead on the rest of the field.

The first event to finish was the weight throw, an event where MIT expected to score big. The throwers were up to the task, as Chris Kahn ’04, David P. Saylor ’04, and Uzoma A. Orji ’06 all made the finals, and finished 2-4-7. At the same time, Mielcarz and Hoover were back at it, competing in the long jump. Instead of being tired from the previous day’s pentathlon, the two seemed refreshed, placing fourth and fifth for 9 points, despite being seeded to score only 1 point between the two.

Results mixed in running trials

The early running events brought mixed results for the Engineers. In the trials of the 55-meter dash, David A. Blau ’06 and Zack J. Traina ’05 were a little off their best and missed qualifying for finals by .01 and .02 seconds, respectively. Traina’s unfortunate carried over to his next race as well, as he ran a strong 200-meter trial, but a misstep on the second turn led him to run into the lane inside of his, and he was disqualified. The pentathletes continued to respond, however, as Mielcarz and Rajter both qualified easily for the 55 hurdle finals.

The first running final was the highly anticipated 1,500-meters, which featured four of the five fastest Division III milers in the country, including MIT’s Brian Anderson ’04. The race lived up to the hype as Trinity’s Ryan Bak took it out hard, and held off a late surge from Mark Miller for the win.

Anderson ran a tactical race, sitting on Williams’ Matt Winkler in third until the last 300 where he tried to pull away. Winkler refused to give up, eventually retaking Anderson on the final straightaway and leaving Anderson with a hard-fought fourth place.

By this point in the meet, MIT had built a sizeable lead, but was now faced with the position of watching its opponents chip away. Between graduation and injuries MIT was left with very little depth in the middle distances, and without its sprinters in the finals, the next five races -- the 55, 200, 400, 600, and 800 -- were all without MIT entries. But as the races finished, it became clear that although the other teams were making up points, if MIT could continue meeting their seeds in the field events, and the remaining distance events, no one would be able to catch up.

With the victory within their sights, MIT put on a courageous display to put it fully out of reach. In the hurdle finals, Rajter finally began to show the effects of the long competition as a heel injury from the previous week slowed him down, but fought through the pain to finish sixth in 7.91. Mielcarz continued to shine, running a personal best of 7.90 to take fifth.

Anderson, Nolan pick up points

Although Anderson faced the same three competitors in the 1,000 as had beaten him in the 1,500, he seemed confident that he could set things right. Once again Trinity’s Bak set an extremely fast pace, running 29’s for each of his first four laps. While most of the field was content to let him go, Anderson rode shotgun the whole way, sitting just off Bak’s shoulder, before passing him at the 800. Once again Anderson was unable to hold on, as Bak retook him on the home stretch, but with his 2:28.13, Anderson easily took second, as well as the fourth fastest 1,000-meter time in MIT history.

All MIT was hoping for in the 3000 was that co-captain Sean P.R. Nolan ’03 could improve on his ninth place seed and steal a point or two. Despite being injured and unable to train through much of the season, Nolan refused to settle for seventh or eighth. When the race started to split up after the first mile, Nolan stayed with the second pack, and blazed his final 150 to hold off a hard kick from a Tufts runner, taking fifth and earning 4 more points for his team.

Field events secure MIT victory

When the results from the field events finally came in, it was clear that the competition was for second place. Austin K. Neudecker ’05 took second in the triple jump with a personal best 45-05.5 foot leap. Rajter, already hobbling from the hurdles, took his first jump for 43-01.25 feet, and called it a day, passing his final four jumps, but still placing sixth.

Orji and Williams’ Trey Wright tied in the shot put with identical throws of 53-02 feet. However, Orji’s second-best throw of 52-10.5 edged out Wright’s second best of 52-08, and Orji took the title and the 10 points. Finally, the indefatiguable Mielcarz tacked on his second win of the meet, clearing 6-08.25 in the high jump and clinching the victory.

Although the races were more important for the teams fighting for second and third places, MIT fielded competitive distance medley and 4x800 relays. David S. Gray ’06 led off the distance medley relay with a strong 1,200, but a tough last 50 meters put MIT just behind several teams. Traina, anxious to make up for his bad luck in the sprints, ran a strong first 200 before exploding over the last lap, passing everyone but the leaders. Chris Peterson ’06 went out hard in the 800, but held on strong, handing off to Steve K. Maltas ’06 in fourth, just behind Tufts. Maltas passed the Tufts runner and made up ground on the two teams in front of him, but could neither bridge the gap in front, nor put it away behind, as the Tufts runner caught him on the last lap. MIT held on for fourth in the heat, fifth overall, with a time of 10:35.54.

Tech takes second in 4x800

The final event on the track was the 4x800 relay, an event MIT has won the past two years. This year a number of teams had skimped on their other relays to stack the 4x800, and with a tired Anderson coming back to anchor, it was unclear how high MIT could score.

George R. Hanson ’03 got things rolling with a very physical first leg, handing off in fourth with a 2:01. Steve J. Stoddard ’06 ran an aggressive leg, easily moving into second place, with his best race of the season, a 1:59 split. Taku Iida ’04, whose previous season best was a 2:03, went up against a 1:56 runner from Bates and refused to give in, keeping it as close as possible and handing off to Anderson after an incredible 2:00 leg. Anderson went out hard, hoping to make up as much as possible in the first lap, but after cutting the distance in half, he simply ran out of gas and finished with a 1:56 leg, bringing MIT in with a 7:56.29, good enough for second place.

With their third New England Division III title in 4 years, MIT now looks to make their mark on the National scale. Khan, Orji, Mielcarz, and Anderson have all qualified for Nationals and, with a few others, will represent MIT at this weekend’s New England Division I Championships through Nationals in late March.

The rest of the team already has their eyes set on the Outdoor New England Division III meet, where MIT is seeking its first title since 1990.