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Women’s Track Puts Best Feet Forward at Invitational Meet

By Brian Chase


Valentine’s Day is seen as a day of desperation by some lonely people. The women of MIT Track, however, were desperate only to succeed. The MIT Coed Invitational indoor track meet, held last Saturday in Johnson Athletic Center, was the last meet of the regular season before the New England Division III meet next week starts the successive post-season tournaments. As such, it was the last chance MIT athletes had to post qualifying times in their events for the divisional tourney. Although it was a coed tournament, many of the best men’s track athletes weren’t there, having chosen to go to the BU men’s tournament held the same weekend, because their banked track gave a better chance to score a qualifying time. That left the pressure of the MIT meet mostly on the women’s team, and they responded marvelously.

The MIT Coed Invitational had a total of seven schools in attendance, although several, such as Clark University and Colby-Sawyer College, had such small squads that they weren’t able to compete in many of the events. The remaining five teams, MIT, Oneonta State, Springfield College, Williams College, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, entered athletes in most events.

There was no overt competition, since the MIT Tournament is a non-scoring one, but you can bet that besides striving for qualifying times, the women and men from both teams were trying their best to top the others. Paul Slovenski, the Women’s Track and Field Head Coach, commented that he was happy with the level of competition at the meet because the Williams College women’s team was the defending champion of the conference, and he was eager to see how the MIT women would fare against them. Unfortunately, from the results it looks as though the Williams women got the better of their MIT counterparts, placing first in 11 out of 19 events. In the events where Williams didn’t place first, they placed in the top three all but once. I myself saw several dominating Williams’ performances, especially from distance runner Kaitlin Rees, who finished the 5000 meter run a full minute and a half before the next closest competitor and beat the divisional qualifying time by a good 15 seconds.

But MIT women, while perhaps not as universally successful as Williams, definitely turned in some spectacular performances, some of which I witnessed. Four women on the team posted qualifying marks in two events, and four more qualified in one event to raise the total to eight. When you include the relay teams, which get an open bid to the tournament, it puts the number of qualifiers at 20 from this tournament alone. Among the two-event qualifiers are Chinwe P. Nyenke ’04 in 55 meter hurdles and triple jump, Christine Fanchiang ’07 in the 55 meter hurdles and pole vault, Nalini Gupta ’05 in long jump and triple jump, and Adrienne M. Irmer ’04 who posted personal bests in both the weight toss and shot put. Irmer’s weight throw of 48 feet, 10 inches not only qualifies for the New England Div. III tournament, but also for the NCAA Provincial Tournament. She is one of three MIT women to qualify that high. The other four women who qualified for the N.E. Div. III tournament in one event were Andrea Staid ’07 (who set an MIT Varsity record in the 600 meters for the second week in a row, according to the Women’s track web site), Julia C. Espel ’05 in 3000 meters, Elizabeth Au ’07 in pole vault, and Meredith N Silberstein ’05 in the long jump.

While the women were the major focus of the day, there were several men in the meet on multiple squads who turned in impressive performances. Markus Burns from Williams had the best day of perhaps any athlete, placing first in both high jump and long jump by convincing margins. My opinion was his afro should have scored at least another inch for him. The MIT men’s distance team was impressive, especially in the 5000 meters. MIT men were able to run the second, third, fifth and sixth place times in that race, which was the best team result of all the distance teams there. Seeing the wide margin between the last MIT runner and the last runners from Springfield and Oneonta State gave a sense of pride and satisfaction to this MIT reporter.

Now my only hope is that MIT fans and athletes have the same sense of pride after the Women’s New England Division III Tournament, which is being held here at MIT this upcoming weekend. With 32 Women’s teams competing, it is the largest indoor track event that MIT has ever hosted. I urge any MIT sports fans to take an hour or so out of your Saturday to cheer for the MIT Women’s Track Team as they test themselves against the best competition in the area.