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Track Third in Championship, Small Squad Hurts Bid for Title

By Benjamin A. Schmeckpeper

TEAM MEMBER

The MIT Men's Track team took a squad of just 17 athletes to Williams College to defend its title from last year at the New England Division III Championships this weekend. Competing with small numbers all season, the team looked to continue its strong performance from the NEWMAC championship the previous weekend. At the start of the meet, Williams was the clear front runner, with Bates College, MIT, Tufts University, and Springfield College expected to battle for the second and third place trophies.

Competing in the decathlon on Thursday and Friday, Thaddeus J. Wozniak ’06 secured a third place finish with a score of 5,595 points. Wozniak saved his best performances for his last meet of the season, setting career best marks in five of the ten events.

National champion Uzoma A. Orji ’06 competed in all three throwing events for the Engineers; however, he was unable to find his rhythm, placing fifth in the hammer and ninth in the discus before heaving the shotput 55' 1" to win by nearly three feet. Nestor F. Hernandez ’05 and Nathan B. Ball ’05 had little difficulty finding their rhythms in the pole vault. Getting the most out of the tailwind, Hernandez cleared 14' 1" before having to withdraw because of an injured hamstring. Ball continued vaulting, narrowly missing his last attempt at 16'. Having cleared 15' 6 1 4" earlier, Ball placed second overall; Hernandez’s efforts were good for a seventh place finish.

On the track, the 4x100m relay team of Zachary J. Traina ’05, Marcus R. Carson ’07, Jonathan C. Hsieh ’06 and David A. Blau ’06 got things off on the right foot, covering 400 meters in a season’s best 43.13 seconds. Immediately following the relay, MIT sent four steeplechasers to the track and Benjamin A. Schmeckpeper ’05, Krzysztof J. Fidkowski G, and Carlos A. Renjifo ’04 ran to third, fourth, and seventh place finishes, respectively.

Competing in what could have been his final collegiate meet, Fidkowski ran 9:42.02, fast enough to qualify for the All New England Championship and extend his season by a week. After the conclusion of the steeplechase, John A. Brewer ’05 ran the 1500 meter in a season’s best time of 4:02.89 to win his heat. All Brewer could do was watch the following heat and hope his time would place him amongst the eight fastest runners. Unfortunately, Brewer’s time came up just short, placing him ninth by just 0.16 seconds.

Traina returned to the track to compete in the finals of both the 100 and 200 meter dashes, looking to continue the string of near-perfect races he had run this season. In the 100 meter final, Traina was barely outleaned at the finish line, giving him a fourth place finish. Traina’s specialty is the half-lapper, however, and he had the support of the entire team as he raced down the homestretch to a second place finish in 21.87 seconds, a scant 0.13 seconds behind first place.

Ultimately, MIT was unable to defend the title it won last year, as Williams lived up to expectations and finished with a dominant 142.5 points. MIT claimed third place and the final trophy, finishing a mere two points, 68-70, behind runners-up Bates College. Although the Engineers did not put together a perfect meet, for such a small squad to finish third in a large championship is quite an accomplishment.

The third place finish and NEWMAC Championship go a long way to erase the team’s memory of their 2-5 record during the regular season. With the exception of Fidkowski, the entire team returns next year and will look to reclaim the New England Division III title.