Orji Wins Shot Put At NCAA NationalsBy Ben Schmeckpeper
The MIT Men’s Indoor Track and Field team sent two competitors to the NCAA Division III Championships March 12 and 13 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Uzoma A. Orji ’06 and Brian C. Anderson ’04 qualified in two events each and were expected to place high in both. MIT had two other athletes, Nate B. Ball ’05 and Ben A. Schmeckpeper ’05, just barely miss qualifying in the pole vault and 5000, respectively.
Orji started the competition with the weight throw on Friday, an event he began just a year ago. Orji’s considerable talent shone through as he launched a personal best throw of 60 feet 3-3/4 inches, a little more than a foot behind the varsity record. That throw placed him fifth out of the twelve competitors and bodes well for his success the next two years.
Also on Friday, Anderson had qualifying heats in the 1500 and 800. Dominant all year, Anderson has spent the past three weeks dealing with a lingering hamstring problem. In an uncharacteristic performance, Anderson faded over the last laps of both races and failed to qualify for finals in either event, running 3:59.48 and 1:56.78 for the 1500 and 800, respectively.
Going into the second day, Orji prepared for his best event, the shot put. Orji had been untouchable all season in that event, and looked to extend his unbeaten streak. At the end of his first three qualifying throws, Orji had launched his shot over 58 feet, a mark good enough to win by nearly two feet. That throw was both the season’s best for Division III and broke the Kachel Fieldhouse record by over two feet.
Orji’s day was not done, however, as he used his three throws in finals to improve his mark to 59 feet 6-1/4 inches, breaking the Fieldhouse record he had set earlier, and winning the event by 3 feet 1 inch. During those final throws, the entire crowd supported Orji each time he stepped into the circle, as they wanted to see him break the national record, which he came within three inches of doing. His winning throw did break the MIT Varsity record, which Orji set his freshman year and repeatedly broke throughout this season.
Orji’s shot put victory and fifth place finish in the weight throw garnered him two All-America honors and gave MIT 14 points, enough to finish in eleventh place. The most consistent performer all season for the Engineers was Orji, and he ended his remarkable season with a spectacular performance on the national level.